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Survey asks parents about fall options

Parents of Suffolk Public School students have until 5 p.m. Friday to complete a survey on how they would prefer to see schools open in the fall.

Those choices include 100-percent virtual learning, 100-percent in-person learning, and two hybrid options that include one day per week of in-person instruction and either three or four days of virtual learning.

The survey also asks how parents plan for their children to get to school — whether they will take the bus or provide their own transportation.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said last week that he would announce the division’s fall learning plan at the July 9 School Board meeting.

The division, in its explanation about the survey, said it would follow guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Education, and would also work closely with the local health department.

The first hybrid plan would have students come to school one day per week, either on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, for face-to-face instruction. The other three days would be used for online learning with teacher support, and no student would attend school on Fridays to allow for teacher professional development and office hours for student support.

A second hybrid plan would have students coming to school one day per week for face-to-face instruction, with the other four days to be used for online learning with teacher support.

The 100-percent virtual learning plan would see students receive all of their instruction online. Students would use the Canvas learning management platform, which collaborates with Google Classroom, i-Ready for elementary students and Edgenuity for secondary students.

And while the division did provide a return to a normal schedule as one of the four options, it noted that the CDC or the state health department does not recommend this, and it would impact physical distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 on buses and classrooms, and that, at a minimum, all students would have to wear face masks.

Physical distancing is something the division is focusing on, as guidelines being put into place will limit the number of children on a bus and in a classroom. The state released more than 100 pages of guidelines for state school divisions to follow.

Some priorities for the division’s planning include allowing just one student per seat on the bus, using every other seat, for a maximum of 10 to 12 students on a bus. Siblings would be allowed to sit together. Gordon said last week that the Transportation Department has told him that for every bus used on a route now, the division would need five buses to handle each route with social distancing measures in place.

In classrooms, desks would face the same direction and be spaced at least six feet apart, and there would be no more than 10 children per classroom. School staff would be required to wear face masks, while students would be encouraged to wear them. Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III has said previously that the division could not require students to wear them.

Common areas such as cafeterias, gyms, halls, auditoriums or other large indoor spaces would have very limited use and require physical distancing when necessary.

Another division priority would be to have buses cleaned between routes and school buildings thoroughly cleaned and sanitized daily.

Gordon has said previously that special education students, English language learners and pre-K through second grade students would likely come to school more often. SPS Connect will also expand to all grade levels.

Students would not be tested for COVID-19, but the division is determining whether every student and staff member will have to undergo a temperature check prior to entering school buildings. The division has purchased about 175 thermometers to prepare for the possibility, and it has also bought more hand sanitizer and air dryers for bathrooms.

Gordon also noted that with fewer students in school and using less space in buildings, that each school would likely expand its clinics to handle those who might get sick during the school day. He is awaiting state health department guidance on how it will handle issues of COVID-19 in the classroom.

Chief of Administrative Services Dr. Suzanne Rice is heading a division task force to develop ideas for how reopening will look.

The division said in the introduction to the survey that the models would be evaluated either Oct. 2 or Nov. 2, along with state Department of Education guidance, to decide when to transition into the next phase.

“I want to be clear that nothing can replace the traditional classroom setting that we have all been used to in Suffolk Public Schools for generations,” Gordon said during a June 11 School Board meeting. “I also have to be clear that returning to our traditional model is something that has no start date. However, we will continue to be innovative and proactive as we plan for the fall 2020 semester.”

To complete the survey, go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/ReturntoSchoolParentSurvey.