What parents need to know about West Bolivar's reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year
The 2020-21 school year will begin virtually, with a possible transitional return to classrooms
WBCSD’s plan has three phases. How long each lasts would depend on the spread — or containment — of COVID-19 in the area. We are strongly leaning toward having only two phases: Virtual learning, then when it is safe, face-to-face instruction five days a week
Phase 1: Virtual learning
Virtual learning will begin Aug. 20, and is projected to last 45-60 days. Students will not be allowed in school buildings except for assessments or appointments with teachers.
Phase 2: A combination of virtual and in-person instruction
WBCSD proposes a hybrid of in-person and online instruction until it's deemed safe and healthy for students and teachers to fully return to school buildings.
Format: Students rotate between face-to-face learning two days a week and remote learning three days a week.
Students would be divided into two groups to allow for smaller class sizes. Half a class would attend in-person instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays, the other half would attend Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the full class would be virtual on Fridays.
Elementary students K-4 are instructed in person four days a week, while students in grades 5-12 follow the format above. No students attend on Fridays.
Phase 3: Face-to-face instruction five days a week
Under the third and final phase, all students would return to face-to-face instruction five days a week once it's deemed safe. Even in this face, we may continue virtual instruction at some level, especially for our seniors who are preparing for instruction on the collegiate level, which is commonly virtual.
How will we determine when to move into a new phase?
West Bolivar’s plan doesn't set specific dates or benchmarks. Moving into any kind of face-to-face instruction would depend on the spread of COVID-19, the availability of a vaccine or treatment, health and safety guidelines, and What would classrooms look like?
Classrooms will look fairly similar to how students left them, though class sizes would be smaller.
Twelve desks will be the norm inside most classrooms following current social-distancing guidelines, though the district notes that those could change.
The setup of classrooms would need to be re-evaluated, as well as what furniture is necessary.
Would students and teachers have to wear masks?
Under the district's plan, all students and staff must wear protective face masks, cloth face coverings or face shields while on school property, except when eating or drinking. Students would also be expected to wear masks outside while at school, and on school buses.
Exceptions would be made for people with a "documented medical condition" that prevents them from safely wearing a mask. Staff members would not have to wear masks when working alone.
What other safety measures are being taken?
Among other measures, the district says it would ensure that:
Surfaces like desks, chairs and door handles are sanitized throughout the day
Buses will be disinfected after each route.
Buildings have sufficient amounts of hand sanitizer, soap, tissue, paper towels, masks and cleaning supplies
Signs are posted to note proper spacing, remind students staff and visitors of safety procedures, and direct traffic in buildings
Access by "nonessential visitors" will be limited
All students will be required to sanitize hands as they enter school or board buses
All staff must wash or sanitize hands upon arriving
Staff and students are monitored for signs of illness
Students at bus stops will be scanned for fever and checked for other concerning symptoms. If a high temp or symptoms are indicated, the student will not be allowed to board the bus unless no contact with a parent or guardian can be made.
Students who arrive at school with symptoms, or develop symptoms while in school, are isolated "right away" until they can be picked up and taken home
Employees who have symptoms are excluded from entering school buildings
Would children still ride buses to school?
Yes, students can ride the bus to and from school once we are in Phase 2 or Phase 3. Modified seat requirements and assigned seats will be implemented, as well as new sanitation measures on buses. Additional routes may be necessary so that we may decrease the number of students on the bus at a time.
What about extracurricular activities?
Yes, though some activities will become virtual if possible. During phases 2 and 3, when students are attending in person, social-distancing practices will be in place. Although the Mississippi High School Athletic Association has waived physicals for this year, in the interest of safety and precaution, we may still require that our student athletes have some form of physical screening prior to participating in extracurricular activities. For most, it has been a full calendar year since they were evaluated.
How will students eat lunch when they go back?
Phase 1 (virtual) - Students will have meals delivered to them on the buses. This will most likely be a delivery of breakfast and lunch each day.
Do we have enough devices to start the year virtually?
We are fortunate to have half of the needed chromebooks already in-district. One thing we need to understand is that the entire country is trying to order the same supplies at the same time; not just Mississippi. Distributors are backed up for months on laptops, chromebooks, ipads, etc. We have to plan as if we will not have new devices before November. In addition to our 550 or so chromebooks, we have several desktop units in computer labs and classrooms across the district. If need be, we will have these computers transported to our students’ homes and set up for them to use. We are willing to go to these measures to ensure that our students have what they need to continue learning safely. This would give every student a device/unit until (1) our large quantity of chromebooks arrives, or (2) until the units purchased by MDE for our district arrive.
How will we pay for this plan?
Our funding source is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant program (ESSER), and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Acts, which provides school districts with emergency relief funds due to losses caused by COVID-19.
WBCSD will receive $1,064,452 in ESSER funding and we have not received are allocation amount for CARES as of yet.
What factors played into WBCSD’s plan?
MPS said it followed "five guiding principles":
Health and Safety of Students and Staff
Student and Staff Support
Efficient and Safe Operation
WBCSD has surveyed parents, students, teachers and faculty members to reach this decision, weighing how comfortable individuals were to be in school buildings and ideal start dates and learning techniques. The health and safety of our students and community is more important to us than any other consideration. We have to consider not only our students, but our valued faculty members, and also the family members that our students return home to each day. We are committed to doing “what is best for West Bolivar” regardless of the decisions of other districts in our state. While we continue to read other plans and collaborate with other leaders, we are prepared to stand alone in our decision to protect our students, staff, and parents.
WBCSD school board members will make the decision to move forward with the previously approved Blended Learning plan or make the decision for us to start the school year virtually. Please know that there may be exceptions in specific cases regardless of the mode we chose.
What can I do to help?
Please decline the use of our chromebook or computer if you already have one for your child or are capable of securing your own. We will be stretching our resources in an effort to teach our students and keep them safe. If you do not need a device, hotspot, or help with internet access, please let us know so we can use what we have for those who truly need it.
Continue to remind your child of the precautionary measures we all should take. (washing hands, using sanitizer, wearing masks, maintaining distance, self-monitoring for symptoms, etc.)
In Phase 2 and Phase 3, we would like as many parents as possible to bring their child(ren) to school. Our buses will be one of our greatest challenges as it relates to maintaining distance. If you have the means to drive your child to school or allow him/her to walk, that would greatly assist us in decreasing the number of students we will have to put on buses. This will also decrease the number of routes each bus will have to run.
Add ppe and bottle water to your school shopping list. Personal Protective Equipment will be provided, but it is best for your child to have his/her own mask daily whether it is reusable or disposable. If you choose reusable masks, please make sure they are washed frequently with soap and water.
Closely monitor your child’s class participation and educational performance. In a virtual setting where students are learning from home, the parent’s role is key. Please stress the importance of them logging in on time, staying active and engaged in the lessons, and getting help when needed. We need you to be in constant contact with the teachers and administrators. This will take a team effort, and you are a huge part of the team!