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Director's Update 7.10.20

posted Jul 10, 2020, 12:05 PM by Kurt Dronebarger

White County Schools Reopening Plan for 2020-2021

Updated July 10, 2020


Note from the Director of Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, and according to health officials, it is not going away anytime soon. With this in mind, the White County Board of Education will begin the 2020-21 school year with an alternative schedule that will provide for both in-school and at-home learning opportunities. Although this is not our preference, we do not feel that we can provide a healthy learning environment under a traditional school model and we learned in the Spring that a fully-online education did not work for most families. Therefore, our hybrid approach is the most practical way for us to provide a meaningful and safe education. This schedule is designed to be temporary and if all goes well, we hope to be back to school in full session by September 1st, 2020. We know that this will not be easy for everyone involved and we do understand the challenges this plan may bring, but we are committed to serving students and families reasonably and safely. I ask for your continued patience and support as we enter this “new normal” and may we grant each other grace as we learn together. 

The paragraphs below will provide more specific information concerning various school departments and organizations. This is not a comprehensive list but rather a summary in order to provide initial and essential information to families. The White County Board of Education will continue to update and distribute information on a timely basis as we approach the first, full day of school on August 7th, 2020. Thank you for your input, your involvement, and your cooperation during this trying time. We are truly in this together and will need your assistance in order to be successful. Take care White County, and be well!


Kurt Dronebarger/ Director of White County Schools


Overall Plan

White County Schools will open the 2020-21 school year with a hybrid schedule consisting of at-school and at-home learning. One-half of the students will come to school on Monday and Tuesday of each week. The other half will come on Thursday and Friday of each week. Parents will be notified in mid-July which days your students will attend (all family members will attend on the same days). Parents will need to arrange for childcare on the weekdays when their child will not be in school. On those 3 weekdays that students are not at school, online/ at-home instruction will be provided. The logic behind this plan is to provide some in-person educational opportunities while still observing social distancing and other health protocols. We plan to utilize the “flipped classroom” method in which students mostly watch lessons and videos at home and do more hands-on practice, activities, and experiments at school. This approach will lower the demands on parents and allow teachers to monitor and adjust to student learning. In the days leading up to school, the district will be working through the logistics of the plan and making the necessary arrangements to address specific student and family needs. 


21st Century After School Program

The 21st Century Afterschool Program will be offered again this year at all White County elementary schools and White County Middle School.  The program operates Monday-Thursday until 5:30 pm.  Students are provided with a structured and safe after school option where they receive a snack, academic and homework assistance, enrichment activities, and physical activity. Applications to follow. 


Academics

Teachers are training during the summer to support instruction as we move to the hybrid schedule. Teachers will also be able to support students who may not be able to return to school because of pre-existing health concerns.  Students will be assessed through NWEA MAP testing and other formative assessments (especially in Math and English). Results will be used as a guide in developing lessons for the students to help offset any learning gaps due to the coronavirus shutdown.


Assessment

The MAP test will be given for K-8 students in White County August 17-28. This assessment is very important and we would like parents to encourage students to do their very best. The  MAP scores drive the student’s individual path in Edgenuity (online curriculum) which may be accessed at school or at home. State assessments are still planned for the Spring but details are not finalized. 


Attendance

The Tennessee State Department of Education is still requiring 180 days of instruction and 6.5 hours of schooling per day. Our plan will provide for such and student attendance will be taken (details to be announced later) each day, including days when students are working from home. Note, this may be as simple as turning in the work that was assigned for that day. More TBD. 


Health

White County Schools will apply the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers to our employees and students when potential exposure to a positive COVID-19 case has been determined. Those with positive cases must be quarantined for 14 days before returning to school. Those who were possibly exposed will be contacted but will continue to come to school and be asked to wear a mask for 14 days as long as they remain symptom-free. 


Registration Day is August 5th, 2020

All parents of all returning students should pre-register their children online by using the Skyward Family Portal. If you cannot access your Skyward account, please email your school principal for assistance. In some cases, a paper registration packet may be made available to you. Pre-K and Kindergarten students will be contacted by their teacher and an appointment will be scheduled for your registration. Returning students DO NOT need to attend school on August 5th. This includes upcoming 6th and 9th-grade students. Only new students to White County (other than those mentioned above) should appear at their school (with their guardian) on August 5th, 800-930am for registration. 


Safety & Operations

Students will practice social distancing at school when practical, including at lunch and recess. Body temperatures will be taken of all students and staff each morning and hand washing will be more frequent. Cleaning protocols will be enhanced and other procedures will be altered to mitigate coronavirus concerns. The use of masks will be encouraged especially in hallways and common areas. Those showing signs of illness will be isolated and parents will be called. If any person tests positive for COVID-19, the health department will work with the school to provide the relevant information to those exposed to risk. ESSER/ CARES Act funding has been budgeted to purchase additional cleaning and disinfecting supplies, thermometers, Chromebooks for student use at home (if needed), and subscriptions to online platforms for teachers to record virtual lessons. 


School Nutrition

High School families will need to complete a free and reduced application. All elementary and middle school students will be receiving free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). No application required. Currently, there will not be any free meals on days when students are not physically in school (like the COVID-19 Summer meals). However, we are pursuing this possibility. School Nutrition Program employees are trained on district expectations related to COVID-19 health precautions.


Special Populations

As White County begins taking steps to reopen schools, the Individual Education Placement (IEP) team must keep Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as part of the IEP when making decisions. The IEP team will decide on the needs of each student and provide flexibility as appropriate. The IEP team will need to address student-specific needs arising from the transition back into school buildings, consider if a student has experienced regression of skills and/or lack of progress, and identify additional, new, or different services and accommodations. Parents will be contacted concerning IEP meetings. 


Technology

Online software has been purchased so that teachers will be able to share lessons with students easily. Teachers will be using more technology in the classroom so that students will be more aware of how to access materials from home. Devices have been purchased and may be checked out based on parent survey results. An application for device checkout will be available at the beginning of the school year.


Transportation

Bus transportation will be provided as normal by the school district. Because we can not guarantee social distancing on buses, all bus riders will be REQUIRED to wear a mask. Refusal to wear a mask will result in a loss of bus privileges. Now more than ever, students are reminded of their personal responsibility to behave appropriately. Misbehavior on a bus will not be tolerated and may result in a loss of privileges. Every student will have their temperature checked by school personnel as they enter the buildings. In all cases, parents are responsible for being sure they are not sending sick students to school. 


Updates

There will be much more information to come. Regular updates will be released from the school district via phone calls, the district website www.whitecoschools.net and other media outlets. If you have immediate questions you may contact your child’s school (email is best) or the White County Board of Education (at our new location of 576 Hale Street) by calling 931-836-2229. 


Stay safe, stay healthy and stay in school!


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