Wright City School District enacting reopening plan

By: 
Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

With the scheduled start date for the 2020-21 school year just a month away, area schools are working swiftly to implement reopening plans in light of COVID-19.

The Wright City R-II School District is embarking on a campaign to inform patrons of the district about the most recent updates and their options as it relates to returning to school for the fall semester.

R-II approved its pandemic reopening plan during its July school board meeting, preparing for the return of students to campus on Aug. 24. It will have been over five months since students last filed into classrooms for in-person learning, with school having been closed in mid-March.

“Part of our communication campaign is that families can expect to hear from principals right up until the 24th with more detailed information on what each of our building setups look like,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger. “Our hope is that over the next three weeks we can clear up any gaps of understanding our patrons have.”

R-II has outlined a plan that adheres to the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for reopening, including a plethora of contingencies based upon different scenarios.

Within the plan are three formats for learning, including the traditional model, virtual, and alternative methods of instruction.

The traditional model, which R-II is deeming the “seated” option, will have students learning in the classroom with modifications.

“It will look a little different in every building,” said Berger. “We will serve lunch in the classroom across all buildings to eliminate congregations of students.”

At the high school, hallways will be one-way travel and multiple passing periods will be utilized to decrease contact. In the elementary buildings, teacher relocation for special classes will limit cross-contact of students.

A common inquiry the district has received concerns the wearing of masks. As of now, the district plans for all staff to wear masks, while students will have the option. Berger said a spike in COVID-19 cases could result in the requirement for students to wear masks.

“As of now, masks are voluntary for students,” said Berger. “According to our plan, if cases in Warren County continue to climb, we may direct for masks to be worn all the time. If we can flatten the curve and preferably start to see it de-escalate, we can go back to voluntary. Right now it’s trending to where everybody may have to wear a mask.”

R-II will also be offering a virtual learning method for those who wish not to return to the classroom, but prefer to learn remotely. Berger said around 11 percent of surveyed patrons expressed an interest in the virtual learning model.

“All of our patrons can take a virtual option, even if we’re ... using the seated model,” said Berger. “If you have a vulnerable child, you’re going to take a virtual option most likely. There are also parents who are concerned about their child going back into the seated setting.”

There will be an enrollment option for virtual learning and representatives from each building will be available to answer any questions parents may have about either learning model.

If opting to use the virtual learning model, students will be expected to participate as if in the seated classroom, with attendance being taken and completion of assignments required.

“One concern we have is that parents may jump into this virtual model thinking it’s going to be like last spring,” said Berger. “From taking what we learned in the spring during an abrupt transition and further developing our teachers, it’s certainly going to be more rigorous and require the student to engage.”

In an effort to simplify the virtual learning process, each student in the R-II District will now have one-to-one access to a personally issued Chromebook computer. The district will be sending out instructions for distribution of those Chromebooks to take place the week of Aug. 18.

Alternative methods of instruction will be used only in the event that schools are closed again for more than three consecutive days, as a result of a pandemic or inclement weather.

R-II has also created a task force to monitor circumstances and provide feedback and guidance for the district as it relates to the pandemic.

Parents are encouraged to reach out to building administrators with any questions related to the return for fall semester.

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