“This is a reopening, hopefully not our plan for the entire year,” Superintendent Diana Greene says.
Like so many elements of business, society and life, there will be substantial changes for students and parents because of the COVID-19 pandemic when the school year begins in August.
Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene outlined some of the changes coming to primary and secondary education in a virtual address June 24 to members of the Jacksonville Bar Association.
Greene said school administrators and health care professionals, aided by input from parents and students, have been working for six weeks on the plan to begin the 2020-21 school year.
“This is a reopening, hopefully not our plan for the entire year,” Greene said.
Students and teachers transitioned to online learning at home instead of returning to their classrooms immediately after spring break in March.
When the new school year starts Aug. 10, DCPS will offer parents of its 112,000 students the option of their children remaining at home with full-time virtual learning or returning to the classroom, at least on a limited basis, depending on grade level.
Under the current plan, elementary school students, K-5, may return to the classroom five days a week; sixth-grade students may be in the classroom four days each week; seventh- and eighth-grade students, three days each week; and high school students, two days each week.
Students will have classes online on the days they aren’t in the classroom.
“Parents want another option instead of sending everybody back to school,” Greene said.
The plan allows for fewer students in a school on any given day and social distancing, as well as a way for the school transportation system to adapt to social distancing.
She said there will be “rigid practices in place to ensure safety.”
Students and staff will have their temperature checked and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms each day before they enter the school building.
Face shields and masks will be provided. Students will be required to wear them when they arrive on school property and until they are in their classroom.
Desks will be spaced 6 feet apart and clear shields will be installed to reduce contact between students.
The 48,500 students who ride a bus to school will see significant changes.
Bus capacity will be limited to no more than two students per seat, about 15% of pre-COVID-19 capacity. Staggered loads and double runs will be scheduled to compensate.
Buses will be disinfected between routes and at the end of each day. Riders will be required to wear face coverings, Greene said.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided in classrooms, if possible. If that’s not possible, food will be served grab-and-go instead of the previous cafeteria-style buffet.
After-school care and the extended day program will be available and activity buses will be provided for student-athletes and others who participate in extracurricular activities.
The plan will be evaluated after the first nine weeks of the school year and may be modified at any time if conditions change, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government health authorities.
A website dedicated to the re-opening will launch in July.
“It will be a one-stop shop for parents,” Greene said.