Raleigh Students will begin the school year with two days of "face-to-face" in school instruction and three days learning at home.

Raleigh County Board of Education approved the re-entry protocol for the 2020-21 school year on Tuesday evening.

Under the approved re-opening plan, there are four phases: Remote Learning (Phase One), Blended Learning (Phase 2), Blended Learning (Phase 3) and Traditional Instruction (Phase Four).

Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price explained that Phase One is at-home learning, with no face-to-face time in a school classroom

Phase Two is two days "face-to-face" in school classrooms and three days learning at home.

Phase Three is face-to-face learning in a classroom for four days a week.

Phase Four is five days a week in class — in other words, a full return to school. 

While Phase Four is the ultimate goal, Raleigh Students will begin the school year under Phase Two on Sept. 8, Price said.

Under the approved plan, Raleigh County Schools is offering two options: Virtual School through the West Virginia Department of Education Virtual School Platform or Face-to-Face education in Raleigh schools.

Price explained how it will work.

Students are divided into two groups, according to last names. Students whose last names start with A-K will start school on Sept. 8. They will go to school on Monday and Tuesday. 

Students with the last names starting L-Z will go to school on Wednesday and Thursday.

"When students are not attending face-to-face, they will be engaged at home in assignments that have been given to them and provided on our learning management system on Schoology or assignments that have been uploaded at school during face-to-face time.

"The assignments will be supportive of what they did at school those two days."

Parents and students will both have access to Schoology. Teachers upload assignments so that parents are able to help the students at home.

Before school starts, each student will be assigned a technological device for learning.

"They will be hearing from their schools on School Messenger for when deployment on all of our technology devices will be," said Price. "They will be coming by the school to pick up their device, sign the acceptable use policy, and we will be providing that device prior to school starting.

"We want the devices in students' hands before school starts."

Students in grades 3 to 12 will have to wear face coverings — either a mask or a shield — while on buses and when in the hallways.

Sometimes, in cases where social distancing is not possible, they will be required to wear them in class in many cases. Teachers will make the decision in those cases.

Those students who are medically unable to wear a face covering are exempt from the requirement.

Schools will serve breakfast and lunch on face-to-face days. Because the cafeterias may be used at only 50 percent capacity,  Meals will be provided for students to take home when they are not on campus.

"Our cooks have their hands full," said Price. "They will be preparing take-home meals for students and (meals) for the students at school."

Water fountains will not be used, but schools will provide bottled water and water filling stations for students.

Buses will be sanitized after each run, a process that takes about 20 minutes. Hand sanitizer stations are being installed on buses, and students are required to use them.

Students will be seated no more than two to a seat, said Price.

Price said the Phase 2 guidelines apply to all students, with the exception of some special needs students who, based on their Individualized Education Program (IEP), will attend four days a week during Phase 2.

"That's determined through our Special Education Department and their IEPS," said Price.

Gifted students will receive services specifically at their schools and virtually, he added.

There are no special protocols for Dual Credit classes, which are arranged through the institution of higher learning which is offering the class.

The week of Sept. 28, school officials will announce whether schools will move into Phase 3 (four days per week).

"That phase could go backwards, if things would worsen in our county, into Phase One," said Price. "But our goal is, during this four-week period, to monitor and at the end of our four-week period, our goal would be to be able to move into Phase 2, but all of those circumstances that exist will dictate that."

School officials will also determine, in weeks, how long each Phase will last.

Price said they will make all decisions on phases in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and with guidance from Raleigh Health Department, the West Virginia Department of Education and other agencies, said Price.

In some cases, a specific school or community may need to move backwards, in cases of outbreaks.

Price urged all parents to keep their children at home if the child has a fever. Parents may not give a child a fever reducer and send the child to school. Students should have a normal body temperature for 24 hours prior to attending school.

Kids who become ill at school will be placed in isolation in a room that is monitored by school staff, and school staff will call a parent or an emergency contact to take the child home.

Price said that it is vitally important for parents to notify the school of any change of telephone number or address.

Parents must also make it a priority to update emergency contact information and to provide one or more adults who will come to the school to bring home a child who is sick, he said.

Price said that normal school business, such as student transfers and enrollment, will be handled at each school as usual. However, there are guidelines at each school.

"People won't be just coming in and out of schools like they typically have," he said. "There will be a lot of restrictions for visitors.

"Each school will have guidelines they must follow."

John Quesenberry, president of the Raleigh County Education Association, said his group is satisfied with the plan. He added that the plan may also give teachers an opportunity to provide individual students with more attention during class time.

"I feel our county is doing their best to get students back in school, in a safe a way as possible," Quesenberry said on Tuesday. "There is no perfect plan available, but I think our county has been thoughtful and deliberate in trying to balance safety and learning."

He said RCEA wants students back in school full-time but added, "It must be done in a way that is safe for students, their families and school employees."

Quesenberry's main concern, he said, is social distancing on buses.

"But the county is following health guidelines concerning that, and everyone will have masks on buses," he added.

He said that accommodations may be required for teachers who face specific risks related to COVID-19.

"We do have some members with health problems who could be at-risk or are caretakers for elderly relatives or family members who may be more at risk, but I have confidence our county will make reasonable accommodations when necessary and achievable."

The entire re-entry plan will be on the Raleigh Schools website on the morning of July 29.

It is also accessible on The Register-Herald website at register-herald.com

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