KINGDOM CITY — Like other area school districts, North Callaway R-1 is feeling the pressure to refine its plans for the upcoming school year.
During a Thursday meeting, members of North Callaway's Board of Education reviewed the latest versions of the district's curriculum and process plans. Draft versions of both may be viewed at bit.ly/2CykmOc.
The curriculum plan breaks down how staff will handle a districtwide transition to distance learning and families who opt for online instruction. The plan was informed in part by families' responses to a survey distributed by the district.
North Callaway currently plans to return to in-person learning in August but will switch to online/distance learning if necessary.
"We had parents who were concerned about the amount and timing of our communication during distance learning," said Nicole Buschmann, the district's assistant superintendent.
If the district must transition to online learning, kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers will contact each family once a week and schedule one-on-one Google Hangout meetings with each child at least once a week. Families with students in ninth through 12th grade can expect to hear from one of their students' teachers each week; teachers will schedule Google Hangouts with students as needed. All teachers will be expected to respond to parents' emails within 24 hours during the workweek.
The district plans to afford some flexibility to students. Paper packets will still be available as needed.
"It's not accurate to say all families will be able to sit at home and work on homework from 8 to 3," Buschmann said.
Families may also opt not to return their students to in-person classes in August, instead enrolling them in Acellus — an online schooling service offered through the district. Superintendent Nicky Kemp emphasize that if a family opts into online learning, they can't change their mind a month into the school year.
"You're making a decision for a semester," she said.
Students enrolled in Acellus won't be able to participate in school sports.
Kemp said the district may decline to allow students to enroll in online classes if administrators and staff feel it wouldn't be a good fit for the student.
The process plan (bit.ly/2WJafwN) focuses on the district's strategy for handling in-person instruction. It includes three tiers of safety measures: The strictest (Phase 1), which will be in place at the beginning of the school year; a slightly eased version (Phase 2) and normal operations (Phase 3).
"This is going to be a work-in-progress as we go along toward school," district nurse Sara Speight said.
The district plans to consult bi-weekly with the Callaway County Health Department about whether it can move to Phase 2 or 3.
During Phase 1, students will be reminded daily of important COVID-19 prevention measures. Families will sit together on the bus, and students will have assigned seating in the classrooms and cafeteria. Fruits and vegetables will be prepackaged. No communal classroom supplies will be used. The district will host no assemblies or field trips. Recess times will be staggered. Hallways will be divided into lanes — people going one direction will stick to one side of the hall.
"We talked about not using lockers this year — it would stop a lot of congregation in the hall," North Callaway High School Principal Brian Jobe said.
Groups that have the district's permission to use its facilities may still do so, though they'll have to follow current state and county guidelines and the district will charge a cleaning fee for disinfecting facilities after use.
The district does not plan to require use of masks, though board member Tim Safranski requested the district to encourage students to at least wear them on the bus.
Keeping it clean
The district doesn't just have to consider how its classrooms will operate in August — there need to be plans in place for cleaning, dining and more. Administration has been working with the custodial staff to develop a plan, Kemp said. They've mapped out "high touch" areas in each building — surfaces that'll need to be sanitized more frequently.
"We have to realize that something has to give — the bookshelves won't be dusted every other day," she said.
But some of those details are still up in the air, too. Board of education member Kendall Pipes asked what will happen if a building has a positive case — will the whole building be evacuated for cleaning? Will the district sanitize the bathrooms that student may have visited, along with the classroom?
"We'll use the most up-to-date recommendations from the (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the (World Health Organization)," Kemp replied.
"I like the way you dodged that," Pipes said.
As with Callaway County's other three public school districts, North Callaway will be receiving infrared cameras capable of checking peoples' temperatures as they pass. The district will receive five cameras in total, one for each building, thanks to CARES Act funding being distributed by the county. North Callaway will have to pay 20 percent of the cost for the cameras.
The district is also applying for round two of the county's CARES Act funds — a grant round focused on mitigation efforts. These grants also require a 20 percent match.
"We're looking at what we can do to get restrooms touchless and purchase cleaning supplies and a fogger, so we could go in and quickly clean a building if there was a case," Kemp said.