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Chambers County School District releases back-to-school first draft

At Wednesday’s Chambers County School District Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge announced the current plan for reopening the 11 schools in the district.

She went over the 10-page plan with the members of the board. So far it is a draft, since information is constantly changing. For example, Gov. Kay Ivey’s order about masks was announced after CCSD came out with its reopening plan.

As previously announced, the school year will start on time, beginning classes on Aug. 12. This is so students can get their Google Chromebook and learn how to use them in case school needs to close again because of COVID-19.

“If we do have to close down in the future, we will be closing down buildings, not education,” Hodge said. “We need to go ahead and get started so we can get our teachers, students and parents familiar with the types of activities, so they are not thrown to the wolves like they were in March.”

In order to get students and teachers prepared for a possible closure, teachers are required to implement the types of activities that they would assign to students if they were at home.

There are four different ways for learning, traditional, online, online/remote learning and the blended method.

Traditional school is just the normal way that school has been taking place for years, with students on campus. The virtual method has been offered or the last decade, which allowed sixth through 12th graders to take online classes instead of going to school. The student had to prove they could do their work before being allowed to participate in the method. The blended option is where students can take some classes online while taking others in person.

The online/remote option is the option for those wishing to keep their students at home while doing school work. It is for those who are worried about COVID-19.

Students that wish to participate in the online/remote option are not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.

“If you are scared or there is the threat of bringing that into your home, then you cannot participate in cheerleading or the band or rambassador or what have you, because the same threat still exists,” Hodge said.

Students that will take part in the online/remote learning will still be able to participate in the school breakfast and lunch program. Meals will be given out just as they were from the middle of March until May 21, where bags of food will be placed inside the family’s car.

There will be two spots this time, LaFayette Lanier Elementary school and Eastside Elementary from 8:30 to 9:30 in their respective timezones.

Students that participate in the traditional school format will be allowed to participate in lunches. Lunch will be different than normal, and it depends on the school. Schools that can socially distance in the lunchroom will be allowed to do so, while schools that can not, will use other spaces, like classrooms and outside, to hold lunch. Those buying lunch will have to go through the lunch line with their mask.

Students wishing to participate in the lunch program will need to fill out the remote application or contact Montray Thompson at thompsonm@chambersk12.org.

Students are allowed to bring their own lunch, but they are not allowed to share any food.

For students to get to and from school, there will be a variety of options.

“Principals came in yesterday with arrival and dismissal plans,” Hodge said. “There are 11 different schools and there are 11 different plans, but it’s what works for them. When you have a campus with 800 kids on it compared to a campus with 150 or 200 kids on it, social distancing and all those things are easier with a smaller population. Arrival and dismissal will be based on the school.”

Buses will have to have every window and hatch open for the most air circulation possible. If possible, there will be social distancing on buses, but when that is not an option, students will be required to wear masks on the bus. In order to keep as much traffic down as possible, the first students on the bus will be required to sit at the back, while the last person on the bus will be at the front. Families will be required to sit together.

To reduce the number of students on the buses, families are encouraged to transport their child to and from school if possible.

As of now, large gatherings, like pep rallies and assemblies, will not be allowed. Field trips will only be allowed for competitions, whether sport, academic or extracurricular. For clubs and extracurricular activities, they are allowed to meet as long as they have an approved plan to deal with the virus.

Athletic events are going to follow the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s guidelines, which are expected to be released by the end of the month.

As of Wednesday, there were no changes to the school calendar.

To the best of the schools abilities, students will be socially distanced at school.

“Our schools were not built to fit 20 kids in a classroom and put them 6-feet apart,” Hodge said. “What we’re trying to do is keep them in cohorts. Keep the same kids together throughout the day as much as possible.”

At W.F. Burns Middle School, Principal Chad Smith is working on a schedule that will allow the teachers to rotate instead of the students, in order to keep down as much foot traffic in the halls down as possible.

Whenever there are times where students will transition between classrooms, face coverings will be worn at all times.

Instructional items will not be allowed to be shared. In order to help with that and to help families that were hit hard by COVID-19, the CCSD is spending $130,000 of its CARES money to provide kits of school supplies for all students K-12. These kits contain everything that would normally be on the back-to-school shopping list. CCSD will also by extra items, like spiral notebooks, in bulk to make up for items that may not last the entire school year. Special items, like a graphing calculator, will not be included in the kit.

Hand sanitizer and disinfectants will be available in all classrooms, which will be sanitized daily.

On Aug. 12 parents of pre-k and kindergarten students will be allowed inside their individual buildings for the first week of school, but only one parent will be allowed inside. Overall, visitors are not allowed beyond the school’s office and must wear a facemask while inside a building.

There will also be an option for an open house for students new to a school, which includes third-graders at LaFayette Lanier, sixth graders and ninth graders at their individual schools.

During P.E. and recess, students will not be allowed to dress out, but are encouraged to wear shoes appropriate for physical activity. These areas will be sanitized between classes.

Water fountains will be closed, so students are allowed to bring their own water bottles, as long as they are labeled and able to seal appropriately.

The full draft is available on the CCSD’s website.