COVID-19 and Re-Opening of Schools » Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services 5/25/2021

Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services 5/25/2021

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SECTION 1:  INTRODUCTION

 

The purpose of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund is to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s students by addressing students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. This plan describes how Washington County Public Schools will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and division staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. Questions about this plan should be directed to:  Dr. Jeff Noe, Assistant Superintendent, 812 Thompson Drive, Abingdon, VA  24210 / (276) 739-3004

 

Summary of Response to Covid-19:  Washington County Public Schools response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been and continues to be based upon the most up-to-date guidance from state and local health officials as well as the CDC.  At the heart of our response has been our students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.  Our ultimate goal has been to return to in-person teaching and learning as quickly and as safely as possible.  At the beginning of the pandemic, our primary concern was to ensure continuity of instruction through the use of a digital learning platform and access to devices for all students. 

 

 

SECTION 2:  MAINTAINING HEALTH AND SAFETY

 

Washington County Public Schools has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and division staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. A description of actions already taken and additional actions planned is below.

 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Washington County Public Schools utilized ESSER funds to purchase Personalized Protective Equipment (PPE), including a variety of masks and face shields, plexiglass dividers for office areas and classroom use, and hand sanitizer and wipes.  We implemented procedures for dispensing and return of instructional supplies and resources safely.  We also provided touchless water fountains, thermometers (handheld and stand-alone), and air purification systems in a variety of settings, including ventilation systems on buses.  Sewage treatment and HVAC systems are being updated soon. We modified school schedules, entry and exit patterns in school buildings, modified bus routes, and beginning and end of day procedures.  Additional signage in and around the buildings provided students and families with procedures and requirements of mask wearing and social distancing. Chromebooks were provided to students to allow for facilitation of digital learning.  Washington County Schools contracted with mental health agencies to work with students and staff.  Childcare was provided for the community and school staff.  An additional licensed nurse was hired for contact tracing purposes and compilation of data.

 

In addition, Washington County Public Schools has adopted policies on each of the following safety recommendations established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

  • Universal and correct wearing of masks ~ Correct wearing of masks was mandated on all school property, including buses.
  • Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding) ~ Many classroom settings were moved to allow for social distancing as well as the removal of any unnecessary furniture, several classrooms were blended to allow space for students; a modified schedule allowed for fewer students in the building on certain days; the flow of students through the building was modified and clearly marked to allow for social distancing.
  • Handwashing and respiratory etiquette ~ Hand washing and sanitizing stations are available throughout the building with proper signage and hand sanitizer available in every classroom; substantial training was provided for staff and students regarding proper procedures and respiratory etiquette.
  • Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation ~ Schools are closed on Wednesdays to allow for deep cleaning and disinfecting; classrooms are disinfected daily between groups of students as well as the end of the day on Friday; when possible, students remained in one setting throughout the course of the day, with encore classes (art, music, guidance) traveling to the classrooms instead of students moving.
  • Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments ~ An additional school nurse was hired for contact tracing and Covid management; isolation rooms were established in every building for symptomatic students; we remained (and continue to be) in close communication with local health department officials.
  • Diagnostic and screening testing ~ A daily requirement of self-screening as well as school-based temperature checks was implemented; a temperature of 99.3 or higher required additional screening.
  • Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities ~ In coordination with the local health departments, all school staff members had access to vaccinations with release time provided; communication regarding student vaccinations and locations within our school facilities has been established.
  • Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies ~ Accommodations regarding mask wearing have been provided on a case by case basis. Teaching staff were provided extensive PPE when working with students that could not be masked due to physical limitations.  Modified bus routes to allow for space mitigation were in close collaboration with parents regarding mitigation, health needs, training and support.
  • Coordination with state and local health officials ~ There has been extensive coordination with state and local health officials regarding school opening practices and procedures, school closings, mitigation strategies, and athletics and extra-curricular activities.

 

 

SECTION 3:  CONTINUITY OF SERVICES

 

Washington County Public Schools has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs.

 

Academic Needs:  Washington County Public Schools will provide an extended summer school program for students in grades K-12 in June 2021.  As well jump start and orientation programs are planned for each school.  Summer professional development opportunities are planned for all staff focused on effective instructional practices as well as training and utilization of our learning management system.  Plans for the 2021-2022 school year include expanded tutoring, remediation and intervention opportunities and the use of a progress monitoring tool to identify, diagnose and assess learning gaps.  Additional personnel will be provided to each school for the purpose of individualized learning (Academic Recovery Specialists).

 

Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs:  Washington County Public Schools has partnered with Virginia Tech TTAC (Technical Training and Assistance Center) to develop a systemic plan of approach to address social-emotional needs.  We have also partnered with local mental health agencies to provide on-site mental health support and day treatment services.  A partnership with Behavior Health Services with provide truancy prevention and intervention and act as a liaison between parents, students, and school personnel.

 

Student Health Needs:  Washington County Public Schools maintains a concern for student health and well-being, as evidenced by our commitment to a school nurse in every building.  Training of all staff regarding COVID symptoms, PPE use, symptom monitoring.

 

Food Service Needs:  All students were provided the opportunity to receive school meals for all remote learning days.  Through the use of ESSER funds, additional support and compensation was provided to child nutrition workers and bus drivers who assisted with meal distribution.

 

 

SECTION 4:  OPPORTUNITY FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

 

In developing the ARP ESSER Plan, Washington County Public Schools sought public input and took such input into account as described below.

 

During the development of the School Opening Instructional Plan, Washington County Public Schools sought input from faculty, staff, parents, and students and included all stakeholders on committees.  Opportunities for parent and community input was provided during the Public Comment section of regular meetings of the Washington County School Board.  Multiple staff and community surveys from the division level, individual school level, and the Washington County Education Association provided additional input regarding the opening of schools.  All input was considered in the development of the reopening plan.

 

 

SECTION 5:  PERIODIC REVIEW AND REVISION OF PLAN

 

During the period of the ARP ESSER award (until September 2023), Washington County Public Schools will periodically review and, as needed, revise its plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services. The plan will be reviewed at least every six months, and the school system will seek and take into account public input during the review process. Plan revisions will address updated CDC guidance on safely reopening schools, if any are issued.

 

 

SECTION 6:  MAKING THE PLAN AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC

 

Washington County Public Schools has taken the following steps to make this plan available to the public:

 

  • The plan is posted at www.wcs.k12.va.us;
  • The plan is available in multiple languages: through the use of our web provider powered by Edlio, our plan is available in more than 100 languages;
  • The plan may be orally translated for parents. Contact Judy Honaker-Martin, honaker@wcs.k12.va.us, (276) 739-3019 to request translation; and
  • Upon request, a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA may be provided with the plan in an alternative format accessible by contacting Lisa McCoy, Coordinator of Special Services, lmccoy@wcs.k12.va.us, (276) 739-3052.