Fulton Public Schools has released its plan for in-person classes this fall.
The "Return to Learn" plan was created based on input from families, staff, the Callaway County Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
When Fulton students will return to their desks Aug. 26, school will look a little different.
"The importance of in-person learning is well-documented in children and as such a primary goal for FPS," the plan states. "Beyond the educational impact, there has been substantial impact on social interactions, mental health, food security and physical activity for children and families."
Sanitation and distance
The district is hiring additional custodial staff to increase sanitation and disinfection efforts.
Throughout the day, classrooms and common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected regularly with the support of staff.
This will also mean changes to classrooms themselves, with hard-to-clean soft carpets and non-essential furniture removed.
Hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations will also be available in classrooms, building entrances and exits, and commonly used areas. Students will not share school supplies.
On the issue of transportation, parents who can transport their children to school are encouraged to do so.
While modifications to loading and unloading procedures and assigned seats will be in place, minimizing the number of people in the small enclosed space of a school bus will do more to minimize contact.
Bus drivers will also thoroughly sanitize buses daily.
In order to limit exposure between individuals as much as possible, protocols have been put in place to maintain distance.
Desks will be spaced as far apart as possible.
For elementary school students, teachers for classes like art and music will visit primary classrooms, as opposed to the typical practice of having students visit teachers.
Recess times will also be staggered.
During a normal school day in years past, students would frequently come into contact with one another in crowded hallways and cafeterias. The plan focuses on ensuring students come in contact with as few people as possible.
"If, for example, there is a positive case, it's how we'll work with the county to do contact tracing," Superintendent Ty Crain said. "The goal is to keep them in the smallest groups we can."
When cafeterias are used, the number of students will be limited, and students will sit with fellow students from small groups they are already in regular contact with. Students might also eat meals in classrooms or other common areas to keep cafeterias from being overly crowded.
Assemblies, rallies, parties and dances will only be held if social distance can be maintained.
Similarly, to assist with contact tracing, assigned seats will be in place for classrooms, common areas and school buses.
Students are strongly encouraged to wear masks when social distance cannot be maintained — for example during passing periods in the hallways and while riding the bus.
To do this, staff, who are also encouraged to wear masks or face shields, will lead by example.
Non-essential visitors and parents will not be allowed past the entrances of school buildings or secure vestibules. Any visitor deemed essential will have their temperature checked, with screening and their visit logged to record the specifics of the visit and who they come in contact with.
Plans for addressing positive cases
Anyone who is sick should stay home — perfect attendance will not be incentivized, and learning opportunities will be provided for students who stay home due to an illness.
Thanks to a partnership with Callaway County, thermal cameras will be in place at the entrance of every building to scan crowds for high temperatures. If any are detected, those individuals will be screened for additional symptoms. Hand-held temperature readers will also be used.
If a student or staff member has a negative COVID-19 test, they must provide testing results from a health care provider, be fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and have an improvement of symptoms.
If a student or staff member was sent home with COVID-19-like symptoms but does not have a diagnosis, to return to school they must be fever-free for a minimum of 72 hours without fever-reducing medication, have an improvement of symptoms and bring a medical clearance signed by their licensed health care provider.
If someone has a positive or presumptive positive COVID-19 diagnosis and have experienced symptoms, they must be fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and have an improvement of symptoms. At least 10 days must also have passed since symptoms have appeared.
If they have tested positive for COVID-19 but have never developed symptoms, they may return 10 days after the date of their first positive test.
COVID-19 symptoms such as high fever, headache, runny nose, loss of taste or smell, coughing, sore throat, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and muscle and body aches can appear two to 14 days after exposure.
If someone displays symptoms while at school, they will be moved to a designated area to minimize contact until they go home. If the district receives official notification of a positive test, all staff, parents and students will be notified.
If someone has likely been exposed, the Callaway County Health Department will contact the family.
Anyone who has come into contact with others awaiting test results will be screened for risk level:
High risk: If someone has direct, inside, person-to-person contact for more than 30 minutes with someone who has tested positive, they should remain home for 14 days.
Medium risk: If someone has direct, but brief contact with moderate social distancing, they should usually self-monitor, wash their hands frequently, wear a face mask and check their temperature.
Low risk: If someone has indirect contact while outside with consistent social distance, the should wash their hands frequently.
With the Return to Learn plan announced, some families might decide not to return to school this fall for in-person classes. Virtual education through online education platform Launch is one option.
To opt for virtual learning, parents must apply at bit.ly/30H9sxL and enroll by 8 a.m. Aug. 10.
If approved for virtual learning, students will be issued the required technology.
This virtual online option will not use Fulton teachers — Launch is used across the state and is staffed by certified Missouri educators.
For elementary school students, Launch offers six hours of daily teacher-supported virtual programming, daily workbook activities and personalized learning with a 25-to-one student-teacher ratio. Instruction in English-language arts, math, science and social studies, as well as physical education, music, art, coding and information literacy is available.
Middle school course offerings include core content, world languages and exploratories.
High school students have core content offerings, AP, honors and dual credit opportunities, and credit recovery opportunities.
Virtual classwork will begin Aug. 24, and students will have until Sept. 1 to return to in-person learning if they choose. Past that deadline, students will have to wait until the spring semester if they want to switch out of virtual learning.
If the situation deteriorates and the district decides to pivot to distance learning, students who began the year in-person will still be taught by Fulton teachers, while Launch students will continue learning through Launch.
"It is fluid," Crain said. "It all depends on what the scenario looks like."
The district's distance learning plan will be reviewed at the Aug. 12 Board of Education meeting.