MOKANE, Mo. — South Callaway R-2 Superintendent Kevin Hillman is preparing for what could be the strangest year in the school district's history.
But he hopes those plans won't be needed — that students and staff can return to class as usual with a few added precautions, rather than dealing with altered schedules or distance learning.
"I don't want to go there," he admitted.
The district has prepared action plans for four scenarios.
Plan A is a fairly normal school year — with all students and teachers asked to return to in-person classes. Safety measures will be in place, though, including Plexiglas sneeze barriers in the offices, advanced cleaning schedules and switching out water fountains for water bottle-filling stations.
The district has already acquired small no-contact thermometers to take students' temperatures and might also purchase a larger infrared thermometer meant to handle a high volume of passersby.
Hillman acknowledged some teachers might not feel safe coming to school if the district returns to in-person classes, and some parents might choose to keep their children at home. Those children will be expected to attend class virtually, he said.
Some details about Plan A are still up in the air pending input from the district's lawyer and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For example, will a child or staff member who has a fever be required to take a COVID-19 test before returning to school? What, exactly, happens if someone tests positive?
Those details will be available by registration (Aug. 10-11) at the latest, Hillman said.
Plans B and C tackle scenarios in which the district is asked to limit the number of students on campus each day.
If the district is limited to 50 percent capacity, students might attend every other day. Plan C deals with a similar scenario but with 25 percent capacity.
Under Plan D, all students and teachers would stay home and continue distance learning. Administration and teachers have spent much of the summer preparing for scenarios B-D, Hillman said.
Teachers have joined professional development focused on improving their ability to conduct online classes. They're building flexibility into this year's curriculum.
"If we go to Plan B or C, our days will look drastically different than normal," he said. "We don't anticipate extending the school year, but we'll have to rapidly redo (classes') scope and pacing."
The district is figuring out how to handle lunches; during the closure in spring 2020, the district delivered meal packages once a week to families in need.
"We're not going to let any kid go hungry," Hillman said.
Internet access is still an issue, Hillman said — about 10 percent of district families don't have high-speed internet access.
"We can't mandate that, and it won't ever be 100 percent," he said. "The students that have high-speed internet, we're able to push out so much more material to them."
Paper packets of school work will continue to be available to families as needed, and the district is trying to "grow their library" of ways to help families connect to the internet, he said. He's talking to area internet providers about expanding access.
The district also plans to stagger which classes are having Zoom meetings and which are working on virtual packets of homework, recognizing "it's next to impossible" for several children in the same household to join video chats simultaneously. South Callaway uses virtual learning software Schoology, which Hillman said worked well after "a few hiccups."
Also challenging: motivating students. Some simply opted not to complete homework during the final quarter of the 2019-20 school year. That won't fly in 2020-21 — students will be graded as usual.
"Some students just need to be in front of a teacher," Hillman said.
Currently, the district anticipates Plan A to be in place when classes begin in August. The district doesn't anticipate any major changes to personnel, sports programs, facilities or the student handbook.
Even if students stay in class all year, efforts in prepping for a distance-learning scenario won't be wasted, Hillman said. The expanded access to online classes and the internet will benefit many students.
"We were already talking about, what if a kid wants to take a marine biology course from (University of California, Los Angeles)? Let's make that happen," he said.
The district's overall goal for the year might sound simple, but with the ongoing pandemic, it's a challenge the district is rising to meet.
"We want to keep our staff and students safe while we educate and find a new normal as quickly as possible," he said.
Superintendent: Kevin Hillman
District office contact: 10135 State Road C, Mokane, MO 65059; 573-676-5225; Fax: 573-676-5134
Early Childhood Learning Center: Principal Leigh Dunlap, [email protected]; 10135 State Road C, Mokane, MO 65059; 573-676-5225 (ext. 1); Fax: 573-676-5063
South Callaway Elementary School: Principal Corey Pontius, [email protected]; 10135 State Road C, Mokane, MO 65059; 573-676-5225 (ext. 2); Fax: 573-676-5953
South Callaway Middle School: Principal Gary Bonsall, [email protected]; 10135 State Road C, Mokane, MO 65059; 573-676-5225 (ext. 3); Fax: 573-676-5347
South Callaway High School: Principal Heather Helsel, [email protected]; 10135 State Road C, Mokane, MO 65059; 573-676-5225 (ext. 4); Fax: 573-676-5132
Enrollment is currently available online only at bit.ly/2Zjmjpg. In-person registration sessions will take place Aug. 10 and 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Required documents include a photo ID of the parent/guardian, birth certificate, proof of residency and immunization records.
First day of school: Aug. 24
Winter break: Dec. 21-Jan. 5
Spring break: April 2-5
Last day of school: May 21
Average student-to-teacher ratio: 13:1
Projected enrollment: 780
Goal: "We want to keep our students and staff safe."