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Document: JC Schools re-entry plan

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The News Tribune is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

The Jefferson City School District released its re-entry plan for the fall semester Wednesday, but acknowledged the plan could change dramatically before the first day of school.

The plan reflects the current public health situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic and could change school starts Aug. 24, Superintendent Larry Linthacum wrote in a letter to JC Schools families.

District leaders identified six key district-wide priorities to allow for in-seat education this fall: increased sanitation efforts, social distancing, staff and student screening measures, personal protective equipment, limited visitor access to buildings, virtual education options and procedures for COVID-19 infections.

Before the start of school, parents will receive more detailed information from their schools about how these key priorities will be applied at their students' school buildings, according to the district document outlining the re-entry plan.

The overall district plan will be the same at each school, Linthacum said, but it may be applied differently based on building needs such as student population or bus drop-off procedures.

The district will offer a virtual option for families who do not feel comfortable sending students to school. The district will continue using Launch, a virtual program that was used for summer school. Families must apply for Launch by Aug. 3 at jcschools.us. If a student is not successful with Launch, they may be required to return to in-seat classes, Linthacum said. Middle and high school students approved for virtual education may choose a hybrid of online and in-seat courses if they choose.

Students approved for virtual education will have a 14-day window to transfer back to in-seat instruction if they choose. Otherwise, they must remain in the Launch program for the whole semester. Students enrolled in Launch for the first semester can choose to return to in-seat classes or remain in Launch for the second semester. Launch will provide technology devices to each student enrolled in the program. The district will provide MiFi hotspot devices to students who choose to enroll in Launch but do not have internet access, Linthacum said.

The district decided to return to in-seat classes with remote options because in back-to-school surveys, the majority of families and staff expressed that they want to return to in-seat classes, and about 15 percent of families expressed an interest in a remote option, Linthacum said.

"We think we can help kids be more successful, even with layers in place, more so than 100 percent virtual learning," he said.

JC Schools administration worked with other Cole County schools and the Cole County Health Department to determine the plan, Linthacum said. They also looked at guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Linthacum said the plan will be fluid and flexible and could change at any time based on local health conditions.

"If we felt through guidance through our health department that it's not safe, even with layers in place, that we're not able to provide a safe learning environment for our families and for our staff, then we would have to consider other options," Linthacum said.

These options could include 100 percent online or a hybrid model of online and in-seat learning. If it is determined that the district needs to switch to a hybrid or online model before the start of the semester, it is possible it would be through Launch.

However, if it is in the middle of the school year, online learning would probably be the same as during the closure in the spring with each student's existing teachers and classes, Linthacum said.

The custodial team and bus drivers will go through disinfectant and sanitation training, according to the plan. Custodians will sanitize high-touch surfaces in each building throughout the day, and bus drivers will sanitize buses before and after each route.

Any time a new group of students accesses an area, the area will be cleaned and disinfected. Staff and students will be expected to disinfect classrooms, and there will be scheduled times throughout the day for students and staff to wash their hands and supplies. Handwashing stations and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the school buildings. Drinking fountains will be turned off, but refillable water bottle stations can be used.

Students will have assigned seats in classrooms, common areas and buses, and "small groups will be utilized to the extent possible," according to the plan. Desks will be spaced out as far as possible and non-essential furniture will be removed. School gatherings such as assemblies will not be held unless students can socially distance.

To prevent students from congregating in hallways or common areas before school, buildings will likely open for only 30 minutes before start times. Students can access school buildings outside of regular school hours under special circumstances and arrangements by staff such as extracurricular activities.

Other changes throughout the school day may include elementary teachers for art and music coming to primary classrooms, recess times being staggered, and some students eating meals in classrooms and common areas.

Staff members and students in grades 6-12 will be required to wear a mask or face covering when social distancing cannot be maintained, such as passing periods and lunch lines. Students in grades K-12 must wear a mask on buses.

Thermal cameras at the entrance of each building will scan everyone's temperature, according to the plan. The district will spend a total of about $200,000 on these devices, Linthacum said.

The Callaway County Commission is using CARES Act money to help local schools purchase these thermal cameras, so JC Schools officials are working with the Cole County Commission in hopes of doing the same, Linthacum said.

Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or above or has any COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be moved to a designated area until they can go home. Students and staff who are sent home with a fever must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication to return to school, and they must have a doctor's note ensuring they do not have a respiratory illness. If they don't have a doctor's note, they must be fever-free for 72 hours.

When students stay home due to illness, the school attendance secretary will ask questions to confirm whether it might be COVID-19. Learning opportunities will be provided to students who stay home due to illness.

If the district receives official notification of a student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 and attended school the day they tested positive, the areas they were in will be closed for at least the rest of the day to allow for contact tracing by the local health department.

Students and staff may be contacted to help with contact tracing efforts, review assigned seating charts and determine who the had contact with the person who tested positive.

Students and staff who come in close contact with someone who tested positive will not be permitted to return to school until released by the local health department. Staff and families will be notified if the school district is aware of an official positive case within a school building.

Details on extracurricular and co-curricular activities will be released at a later date once the Missouri State High School Activities Association releases guidelines, according to the plan. Linthacum said he does not know when this will be.

Linthacum said he encourages parents to read the plan, discuss it with their children and contact the district if there are any questions. The phone number for the administration building is 573-659-3000.

To view the re-entry plan, visit jcschools.us.

To view the plan, click the linked document at the top of this page or visit jcschools.us.

This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. July 15, 2020, with additional details.

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