RETURN TO SCHOOL ROADMAP UPDATE
Learning Updates, as of July 19, 2020
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT INSTRUCTION in 2020-21
SJPS will offer families two learning options for the 2020-21 school year: In-person instruction (if our region remains in Phase 4 or above as defined in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap) or enrollment in our soon to be the newest school in St. Joseph Public Schools, our St. Joseph Virtual School. It is our intention to return students to classroom routines that are as close to normal as possible, with added safety protocols. The following information is provided to help families make informed decisions about what’s best for their student. However, no decisions are needed at this time.
State requirements. SJPS will follow the requirements in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, issued June 30, 2020. As we mitigate risk of COVID-19 spread, our efforts will focus on 1) personal protective equipment, 2) cohorting of students, 3) spacing and movement and of course 4) hygiene. Using masks, distance and keeping students in known groups each day offers the flexibility to afford instruction in a safe environment. The rest of this document is based on the Roadmap, please read it for more specific information.
Full-week schedule. The conditions are yet to be seen that could predict the instructional environment for this fall. However, our teams are planning for the most effective instruction possible while still adhering to state guidelines and health department consultation. At this time, we expect to offer a full day, Monday-Friday schedule for all families that are ready to return to the classroom. A virtual option will be available for families that are not able or willing to attend classroom instruction through our newest school, St. Joseph Virtual School. SJVS will have assessments, grades and will cover our full curriculum; it is aligned to our classroom instruction and expectations. SJVS will not be similar to Emergency COVID Learning during the shutdown this last spring. Lastly, a hybrid or part-time schedule is not available at this time. We have a plan for this model should it be deemed necessary and appropriate by health or state officials.
Personal Protective Equipment. In Phase 4, facial coverings are required for: all staff; PreK-12 students in hallways and common areas; students in grades 6-12 in classrooms; K-5 students in classrooms unless they remain with their cohort throughout the day with no close contact with other classes; and all people on buses.
In Phase 5, facial coverings are recommended but not required for all staff and PreK-12 students in hallways and common areas.
Exceptions are made for anyone who cannot medically tolerate a facial covering, is incapacitated, or is unable to remove the covering without assistance.
SJPS would ask students to bring their own facial coverings (which must be washed daily) or disposable level-one, basic surgical masks which must be disposed of at the end of each day. In specific situations, SJPS will supply disposable masks.
Hygiene. In Phase 4, schools are required to: provide supplies including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, paper towels, tissues, and informational signs; teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and/or the use of hand sanitizer; and use hand sanitizer before entering buses.
In Phase 5, it is strongly recommended that students wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after changing classrooms and before entering buses. We will provide flexibility in scheduling to allow for handwashing. Education and training will be important for ensuring healthy hygiene habits for our students. Parents can support these new guidelines by starting to remind students now, during the summer.
Spacing and Movement. Work stations, students, and teachers will be spaced as far apart as possible. Modifications may be made to classrooms or other areas to promote social distance and thorough cleaning. Schedules, lunches and breaks will likely be altered to reduce congregating students.
We expect most classroom sizes to be very similar to last year. However, depending on the number of families who opt for the SJ Virtual School (SJVS), class size could be reduced within our school buildings.
Guests and volunteers will not be allowed in school buildings at this time. Signage will encourage distancing and safe protocols throughout the school site and offices.
Cohorting of Students. In developing the Roadmap, the Advisory Council and Task Force reviewed research and practices from other countries. Their analysis found that using a variety of interventions, including cohorting student groups along with masks and distancing individuals provided a practical and safe way to educate students in our current era. Therefore, when masks or distancing is not practical or available, SJPS will do its best to keep students with their given cohort, creating a ‘family’ group at school.
Transportation. Given our inventory of vehicles and number of drivers SJPS cannot offer more bus routes or use 6 feet of distance between riders for each route. Therefore, SJPS would like our families to start reviewing their alternatives now in respect to riding SJPS buses. Reducing the number of riders each day would help add distance between individuals. While on the bus, all students will be required to wear a mask. And, the students that are riding the bus each day will be part of a unique cohort, likely with a specific process for entering and exiting the bus and assigned seats everyday. Any school district with buses will offer similar options.
Large gatherings. State requirements will limit large-scale interactions and groupings for cafeterias, assemblies and extracurricular activities. In Phase 4, indoor assemblies may not bring together more than 50 people or students from more than one classroom. Outdoor stadium events are limited to 100 people with physical distancing. In Phase 5, it is recommended that indoor events are limited to 50 people and outdoor stadium events are limited to 250 people, with physical distancing. MHSSA stated recently that they may have fall sports. It is yet to be determined how events will be hosted or contested.
Recess may be conducted outside whenever possible with appropriate cohorting of students to limit interactions with other groups.
Field trips will not be available while in Phases 1-5.
Cleaning. We have enhanced our cleaning capabilities by purchasing additional Victory electrostatic sprayers that spray hospital grade disinfectant throughout the space and in hard-to-reach places. These sprayers kill 99.9 percent of bacteria in five seconds.
In addition, SJPS has reliable cleaning protocols that support safety and wellness and mitigate environmental health risks. All cleaning protocols and products meet industry standards and recommendations set by governmental health organizations. These rigorous standards apply to classrooms, offices, athletic facilities, food preparation areas, common areas and hard surfaces (including desks, light switches, and doors) in every building.
All learning environments have been deep-cleaned and sanitized this summer. Our custodial staff will continue to have regular training throughout the school year so our facilities are at their best for our students and staff.
Potential temporary shift to remote learning. A resurgence of COVID 19 may require schools to pause In-person instruction and shift temporarily to Remote Learning. Normally this would happen if the Governor decides to change from Phase 4 to Phase 3; Phase 3 or lower would induce mandatory Remote Learning.
Our new 1-to-1 technology model (where every student has access to a device), along with staff professional development and training, will ensure that a Remote Learning shift can happen swiftly and efficiently to maintain continuity of learning. Our expectation would be that students receive our full operating curriculum with high expectations, not an Emergency COVID Learning model that took place this last spring during the shutdown.
Remote learning in the 2020-21 school year would have far more rigorous requirements and more robust academic instruction than the stop-gap measures put in place during the crisis in March 2020. Pacing, grading, attendance and curriculum progress would remain consistent with in-person learning expectations.
Safety is always our priority. To assure the best planning possible, Berrien County school districts are working collaboratively. SJPS will follow the required guidance with the vision of providing families two learning options in the fall: In-person instruction within our school buildings or enrollment in our SJPS Virtual School for a full-time, online and robust curriculum. As always, we will continue to keep the SJPS community updated as more information becomes available.