SHEN SCHOOLS

Aubrey Click, left, and Samiya Miller, right, both students at W.W. Robinson Elementary School, exchange hugs on March 13, the last day of school after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam closed the state’s public schools due to the coronavirus pandemic. A proposed plan to reopen schools will be discussed at a School Board meeting on Thursday.

Shenandoah County Public Schools unveiled a draft plan Tuesday morning for reopening schools.

The plan calls for schools to open on Aug. 17, instead of the originally scheduled Aug. 4. It also calls for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to be in class four days a week with virtual learning one day a week. Sixth- through 12th-grade students would do virtual learning four days a week and be in class one day a week. Any student who wants to learn virtually only would be allowed to do so.

The plan is not final, and it will be discussed with the Shenandoah County School Board at its work session at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston said in a video posted on YouTube that the School Board will be discussing and not approving the plan on Thursday.

Johnston said the plan is for Phase Two of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan, which is what Virginia is in at the moment. He said that while he expects Virginia to be in Phase Three by the time schools open, he doesn’t anticipate the plan changing a lot in the different phases.

“We don’t anticipate things like physical distancing or masks will change in Phase Three,” Johnston said in the video. “We still expect those aspects to be in place, which would keep the plan fairly well intact from where it stands at this point.”

Johnston said they had three things they tried to keep in mind throughout drafting the plan.

“I want to let you know that our three main goals in drafting this plan is number one, the health and safety of our students and staff,” he said in the video. “Number two is the academic and social well being of our students. We know that students are anxious to get back and we’re going to make up for some lost ground but we’re prepared to do that. Then the third priority is to maximize the opportunities for students who wish to do so to attend school face-to-face for as many days as possible.”

Plan details

With the plan, all pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students will attend schools Monday-Thursday. Sixth- through 12th-graders will attend one day a week depending on the first letter of their last name.

Sixth- through 12th-graders whose last name starts with a G, I, J, P, Q, S and U will attend school on Mondays. Tuesdays are for B, L, T, V, W and Y. Wednesdays are for D, E, K, M, R, X and Z. Thursdays are A, C, F, H, N and O. Families with children who have different last names will be accommodated on the same day based on the last name of the oldest student.

According to the plan, Fridays will be planning days for all teachers every week and there will be no students in any of the schools. All teachers will establish office hours each week for students who are learning completely virtually.

With this plan, school will start on Aug. 17 and students will be in school during the week of the Shenandoah County Fair, which is Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

Teachers will return to school on Aug. 3.

The last day of school will be May 27, with the last day for teachers being May 28. Originally, the last day of school was scheduled for May 25.

Transportation

Transportation will continue to be an issue. According to the plan, not all students will have access to buses. Administrators are still working on how that will work.

Due to limited space, some grade levels will be assigned to different schools on the same campus to maximize space only if necessary to provide face-to-face instruction.

The length of the school day will be as usual. Every student who attends school must complete a health check upon arriving at school.

Health plan

The division also has come up with a health plan draft that includes measures taken if a positive case is suspected at a school. The school nurse will evaluate the student and communicate with the school administrator, who then contacts the superintendent. The school would then be closed for at least one day to enable sanitation.

If a positive case is confirmed at a school, the school nurse would contact the Lord Fairfax Health District and the school administrator would contact the superintendent. The school would then be closed for 14 days to enable quarantining.

Face masks and face shields will be available to school personnel. Students will be encouraged to use face coverings when physical distancing is difficult. Cloth face coverings will be acceptable and should be washed each night.

According to the plan, cafeteria tables will be numbered and physical distancing practices implemented. All students will eat meals in the cafeteria. Library spaces also will be limited with physical distancing strategies implemented. Office areas and reception desks will have sneeze guards at countertops. Physical distancing will be enforced on playgrounds. No more than 50 students will be allowed on the playground at one time.

Student desks will be spaced 6 feet apart with all desks facing in one direction. Mitigation strategies for the transport of students on division transportation will be sanctioned by the Lord Fairfax Health District. Siblings or members of the same household can sit together. Seats will be numbered.

All school nurses, custodians and bus drivers will use gloves and face masks and/or face shields. All school staff and support staff will have access to face masks and face shields. All cafeteria staff will use gloves and face masks and/or face shields when unable to maintain physical distancing.

Students and staff are encouraged to stay home when they are feeling ill or if they’ve recently had contact with a person with COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.

Signage will be posted throughout each school regarding hand-washing techniques, social distancing strategies, covering your cough, staying home if you are sick and wearing a mask. Signs will be posted at entrances, restrooms and classrooms.

Johnston said in the video that he will be sending out a survey to each parent asking how they would like their children to learn in the upcoming year.

“We’re going to need to send to all parents a set of options to ask you what you want in terms of what you want for your child,” Johnston said in the video. “Are you fearful for them to return and want them to learn virtually only? Do you want them to return according to the plan we have and some other options related to necessity of transportation and so on since that will be a limiting factor as well.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com