Normal opening of schools Aug. 19
“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to have kids in front of teachers, and teachers in front of kids. And, do it in a safe way.”
That sums up the game plan Perkins County Schools Superintendent Phillip Picquet will be executing when students start school Aug. 19.
“I think it’s best for our students too, to be learning face to face, to have that day in and day out, interaction to have that day in and day out feedback. That’s the best learning environment,” he said.
During last week’s school board meeting, Picquet briefed board members on the scenarios the school will be operating under this year.
He elaborated on those ongoing plans during an interview this week.
Picquet and his staff have spent countless hours this summer trying to cover all the what-if scenarios as students return to classrooms with the COVID-19 virus still lurking.
Last year’s school term got cut short in mid-March when schools across the country shut down out of fear of spreading the COVID-19 during a world-wide pandemic.
Picquet said it was fortunate schools weren’t shut down earlier. Even though the year was about 80-85% complete, students still missed out on the last two months of instruction that carries them forward to the next grade, he said.
“We missed some instructional opportunities. Absolutely. We’re going to have to address that as we come back in the fall,” he said. “We’re going to get in and assess our students that first full week they come back so we have an idea of where they are.”
Piquet said he’s colored-coded the various operating scenarios.
Green means school will start as usual under normal conditions on Aug. 19.
He said they are finalizing protocols on the extra precautions needed to keep kids safe, such as sanitizing regularly, promoting hand washing and other custodial functions.
The school is working directly with the area health district and Picquet serves on a committee of superintendents developing protocols for reopening this August.
Unless directed, Picquet said he doesn’t want students wearing face masks. “I don’t think that would send the right message to our students that they’re in a safe environment,” he said.
He added the school will work with parents who aren’t comfortable sending their kids to school under this scenario.
Last year gave the school experience on delivering online learning but he said the expectations and accountability level will be ramped up if a student starts out that way this year.
The next level—yellow— indicates low to moderate risk. That could mean that a student or two has contracted the virus or there has been an uptick in cases in the community or county.
Under this scenario, Picquet said the priority will be placed on pre-K through sixth grade to ensure their foundational learning in math, science and language arts is disrupted as little as possible.
That foundational learning is especially key in preschool through second grade.
“It launches them for the rest of their educational career, and if we miss out on those opportunities there can be gaps in their learning. I like to mitigate that as much as we can,” he said.
Yellow conditions may include more disinfecting and keeping kids in there own rooms as much as possible, including having lunch there.
It could also mean reducing the number of students at each location by moving junior and senior high classes off campus to other community buildings.
He said he’s already been in contact with churches and other facilities that could be used under this scenario. Plus, it maintains that face-to-face contact that’s key in learning.
Red conditions mean there’s a high risk for students and staff.
This means buildings would not be occupied and learning would have to be shifted to online.
He said the online learning at the end of the school year last year worked but it still has to get better.
Those preparations and staff training are already underway and will be finalized by mid-July.
“I don’t think people probably fully understand the stress that it puts on families to go through what we went through from March until May, especially for our younger students,” Picquet said.
“We’re already going to feel the effects, not just in the immediacy but over the next couple of years,” he added.
That situation could be compounded if another shutdown occurs early or in the middle of the school year.