August 06, 2020After an extensive review of options, a task force is recommending a phased opening of Gilford schools in the fall with parents given the option to send their kids to school in person or do remote learning.
Gilford Superintendent Kirk Beitler presented the reopening task force's recommendations on the school district website. The recommendations were presented to the school board during its meeting on Aug. 4 for review. (Any of the board's decisions were made after press time and will be reported in a future edition of the paper.)
The district formed a task force of numerous educators and administrators in all three schools. The task force polled staff and parents and examined numerous state and federal guidelines.
"The safety of our students, faculty, and community is our priority," Beitler wrote.
Beitler also said that "optimal learning takes place when students interact in-person with their peers and teachers."
He wrote that all the reopening scenarios were meant to mitigate risk and not eliminate it altogether.
"No single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but implementation of several coordinated interventions can greatly reduce that risk," Beitler wrote.
All options would have to be "flexible and adaptive" taking into account current data on the virus.
Families will have the option for enhanced remote instruction. Teachers will set up the instruction model, which will be upgraded from the format in the spring with more consistent platforms. Teachers will be on campus to offer remote instruction five days a week. The district will look at opportunities for students to work with peers who are learning in school.
For students who return to the school in person, cohorts of students will come Sept. 8-11 to set up Chromebooks and receive instructions for the tear. Small cohorts will return to the school from Sept. 14-Oct. 2 for classroom learning. Full in person teaching for all students is targeted for Oct. 5.
Parents can reconsider the decision around the trimester break in the period of late October to early November.
Parents will be encouraged to transport their children to and from school, though transportation will be offered. Those families who wish to use the bus must go through a registration process.
A total of 25 students will be on the bus at one time, the only exception being if siblings are riding together. There will be one student per seat, though siblings can double up in a seat. Masks will be required and hand sanitizer will be available.
The school calendar will be divided into different segments where parents will have the option of making different decisions regarding in-person instruction and transportation.
Any plan for school would include recommendations for extensive safety precautions. All students and staff members would have to do a daily screening at home, protocols will be provided and those who don't meet these will have to stay home. Additionally, any students or staff members feeling sick have to stay home.
Face coverings will be required, which Beitler said will be a nonnegotiable rule. The district bought masks and other forms of protective equipment for all students and staff. Additionally, students will have breaks from their masks included in their schedule. Staff and students who don't follow safety protocols will be subject to their respective disciplinary procedures.
The district has been taking precautions and making changes in each of the buildings. The duct system was inspected in all three schools. Schedules have been adjusted for custodial staff to do adequate cleaning and disinfection. Additionally, electrostatic sprayers will be used in the buildings every night.
Water bubblers will be turned off, but people can still use the bottle filling stations. Hall lockers will no longer be used and accommodations can be made in its place. Each hallway and stairwell will have one direction and passing times will be staggered to not crowd hallways. An outside tent will be placed at the GES and GMS/GHS campuses to be used for classes and lunches. The library can also be used for classes and lunches.
A distance of three to six feet will be maintained in classrooms with the goal of keeping the six-foot distance. If possible desks and tables will face the front and each class will have a seating chart. Students will also be asked to wipe down and sanitize hard surfaces.
Hand sanitizing stations will be available in all classrooms
Volunteers and visitors will not be allowed in the schools, though any in person meetings would be allowed on a case by case basis depending on the business.
The plan includes flexibility in case schools need to be closed and remote learning needs to begin. If there is a spike of COVID-19 cases at the schools or in Gilford the schools will then move to full remote learning.
Fall sports will still be going on this year. The NHIAA set Sept. 8 as the first day for practices for both middle school and high school teams. Co-curricular activities will be allowed if it is determined they can still follow safety guidelines.
The fall musical will take place in the spring of 2021.
If the school board approves this concept, parents will receive transportation registration forms and parents will have the opportunity to pick an instructional model. Staffing preparations will be made and PPE will continue to be stocked. The district will continue to watch COVID-19 cases in Gilford and Gilmanton as well as Belknap County as a whole.