With the sudden cancellation of in-person courses and a shortened fourth quarter, the unconventional end to the 2019-2020 school year brought much uncertainty regarding the return to school in the fall. Sarasota County has been working to develop a plan for the upcoming school year, and earlier this month, released two possible plans on their website, each detailed with procedures and protocols, discussing every aspect of the school day.
Both plans specified extensive cleaning and sanitation. The first plan would bring all students back on campus this fall, while the second plan kept high school students at home to continue distance e-learning while younger students are spaced out throughout the county.
However, June 11, Governor Ron DeSantis released a recommendation for school reopenings, focusing on getting all students back into the classroom. Soon after, the Sarasota County Schools website removed the plan involving distance learning, presenting only the first plan at the School Board meeting on June 16th. Let’s take a look at this plan in more detail:
The current SCS Draft Reopening Guidance plan brings all students back to face-to-face learning in the classroom. It includes suggestions on safety and hygiene procedures, as well as distancing efforts within the classroom. Sections of the plan titled “Personal Protective Measures,” “Systemic Disinfection and Cleaning Protocols,” and “Preventative Screening” outline a course of action that enforces cleaning procedures and encourages distancing. The plan also emphasizes the importance of communication between schools and families about healthy practices, reporting symptoms, and keeping children who are sick at home, with a plan to “Ensure regularly scheduled communication with all stakeholders to build confidence that families, students and educators feel ready for face-to-face teaching.”
The plan also contains a section entitled “Prioritize social-emotional and mental health supports at the beginning of the year and continue throughout the year” that outlines different types of support and activities the county will provide to be implemented into classrooms, addressing the varying effects that the pandemic has had on students and their families. The plan prioritizes making these social, emotional, and mental health related resources accessible for all students, staff, and parents, in addition to emphasizing the importance of building strong connections and addressing these topics before instruction.
District plans for reopening were discussed with the school board June 16, and although no specific proposals were finalized, the county has determined that they will focus on curating a plan which takes the safety of all students and the views of parents into consideration. Thus, a survey for parents was released on June 26th regarding reopening plans for the fall. The survey is available on the Pine View website and the Sarasota County Schools website, and should be completed by June 30th. Further action from the school board and county officials will be based on the results of this survey.
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty. We want to see our friends back at school, but given the situation, safety and health has to come first,” tenth-grader Nathan Widjaja said. “I think they should survey the students as well as the parents. Even though we might not admit it, I think we are all a little bit anxious to know how the upcoming school year will begin.”
One Pine View teacher has mixed emotions about the options provided in the survey.
“The options that have been released so far are not appealing,” AP Language and Composition teacher Jessica Hentges said. “For students, I think it would be better to go to campus part time and be remote part time.”
It is no secret that this year has been one of great adversity and adjustment. The return to school in the fall is likely to be just as unusual as the end of school was in April and May. Among all the protocols for cleaning, protection, hygiene, and distancing, it is clear that Sarasota County Schools intends to ensure that all student coursework remains engaging and interactive, involving collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking from elementary to high school. Keeping students safe, healthy, and happy remains the priority, because clearly, it is now more important than ever that all students are given the opportunities and space to learn how to navigate this strange, unpredictable world.
To access the parent survey, click here.