What will school look like come Aug. 24?

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

PINELLAS COUNTY — The School Board of Pinellas County voted earlier this week to delay the first day of school for the 2020-21 year until Aug. 24. Parents also had a July 27 deadline to choose which learning option they felt was best for their child.

Parents were encouraged to make a choice, or the traditional option would be made for them. Leadership made that decision to help simplify the process for families who did not want a change and to lessen the number of parents logging in to the Student Reservation. Preliminary numbers as of July 30:

  1. Traditional In-Person Option – 62,372 (63.15%)
  2. MyPCS Online – 33,238 (33.65%)
  3. Pinellas Virtual School – 3,151 (3.2%)

Schools are continuing to reach out to families who may have had difficulty making a selection or have changed their choice.

So what can parents expect when classes start back in less than a month?

At a virtual town hall meeting held July 22, Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego said medical professionals visited local schools and gave CDC requirements. CDC guidelines were given throughout, including classrooms, lunchrooms, band and chorus, gym class, science labs, clinics and all other areas.

Below are some of the questions and answers provided by Pinellas County School leadership during last week’s virtual PCS ReOpening Town Hall meeting.

What will the classroom setting look like for my kids?
Dr. Bill Corbett, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent

  • Every student and the teacher required to wear a mask
  • A teaching wall that includes a whiteboard, posters, etc. will take up a foot or two
  • A six-foot buffer between teachers and students will provide social distance for the teacher
  • Classroom cleared of all miscellaneous furniture
  • Desks spread out approximately six feet apart for 18 students or less
  • Classes with more than 18 students, space is reduced as little as four and a half to five feet for the social distancing

How often will rooms be cleaned?

“The rooms will be cleaned every night by the plant operation staff, where they will be completely sanitized and all of the surfaces will be wiped down and sanitized and disinfected. The light switches, the floors will be cleaned, all of the flat surfaces and surfaces student uses,” said Corbett.

Will every student be required to wear a face mask?
Dr. Bill Corbett, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent

We’d like everybody to wear masks, but we understand that, especially in pre-k and kindergarten, it’s probably going to be difficult,” said Corbett. “We know that in some cases those students won’t be able to do it, especially the really little ones. In those cases, we’re gonna ask the teachers to also wear a face shield just to help protect the teacher.”

Are teachers comfortable with in-class instruction?
Dr. Bill Corbett, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent

We have a wide range of comfort levels on our teaching staff. We are working with our teacher’s union to work through all of the details about what it will look like, and we’re getting close on coming to agreement on what those things will look like.

How will MyPCS online be different from virtual learning we did last spring?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

  • Last spring, students could logon at any given time during the day. There were a few live lessons, but for the most part, it was self-paced, there wasn’t an expectation that you were on specifically during your regular scheduled time.
  • In August, students will follow the regular bell schedule of their school.
    1. Elementary school will have about five live lessons each day, but they also won’t be on the computer the entire day
    2. Middle and high school will see all seven teachers, but live lessons may only be five minutes and the rest of the time spent working independently or with peers online.
  • A level of higher expectations and high support
  • More organized with more resources
  • More uniformity and more support for student outcomes

How does learning look with multiple children in one household?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

  • Every student will have their own device
  • Recommends headphones
  • Recorded lessons so children and parents can watch later

How do district application programs/magnet programs work, in MyPCS Online?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

If you’re in a fundamental, magnet, or specialized career academy, you’ll stay in your program even if you choose MyPCS Online.

“It may be that you’re live-streamed into the classroom, so the teacher may be there. Let’s say you’re at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School and the teacher is going over a theatrical performance, you may be live-streamed into that classroom to see it and then you’re gonna do you practice at home and perhaps demonstrate it online for your teacher.”

Will you lose your seat in a magnet program?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

The only way you lose your seat is if you go full-time to Pinellas Virtual. Pinellas Virtual is its own school, but if you stay in MyPCS online, you’ll keep your seat.

What AP and elective courses are available through MyPCS Online?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

In general, all of the classes that are in the current schools will be available in MyPCS Online. We anticipate all the same courses that were available when you registered in the spring will be offered in MyPCS Online.

What is the district doing to address learning loss and the COVID slide, especially for students needing the most support?
Dr. Lewis Brinson, Ed.D., Minority Achievement Officer

  • Students at the beginning of the year will have a diagnostic assessment
  • Develop an action plan
  • Implement and monitor the plan
  • Reassess

“So each child will be given a diagnostic test to determine if they experience the loss or if they’re at the same level prior to the pandemic.”

How do the learning options work for children with IEPs?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

We provide the services on their IEP, their individualized education plan, whether they’re in face-to-face school, or they’re in one of the virtual options.

Do students who choose traditional face-to-face learning have the option to switch to online learning if they feel the need to?
Dr. Michael Grego, Superintendent

If somebody is really not working out well, we’re going to treat it like a schedule change. We’re going to see where we can move and what’s the appropriate time to move somebody’s truly not succeeding, failing, is just not hitting it we certainly don’t want that student and the parent to be miserable.

My child is in the gifted program if I select MyPCS Online, will they get gifted services?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

So whether they get those services part-time at their regular zone school, or if they are in one of our Center for Gifted Studies programs, they will receive their gifted services.

Will MyPCS Online have video/cameras on?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

Teachers will have them on permanently, and students can opt to have them on or not have them on.

Is Wi-Fi free for students?
Dr. Michael Grego, Superintendent

I want to thank Spectrum for their contributions of allowing and providing free Wi-Fi for 60 days, especially throughout the summer. But we also had tremendous contributions throughout this community to provide well over 1,000 hotspots for students who didn’t have Wi-Fi connectivity.

What are the protocols if a student or a staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19?
Sara O’Toole, RN, BSN, School Health Services

When there is a positive case of COVID diagnosed in a student or staff member, we are asking if you’re a staff member to please notify your site supervisor or your principal, and then if you are a parent of a positive case, please notify your school principal. That will trigger the principals to contact the district COVID team.

We have a COVID team set up of some HR support and registered nursing support, and they will really be liaising with the Department of Health. We collaborate jointly with our Department of Health in Pinellas County on all positive cases.

Will my child have to quarantine if there’s a positive case in the classroom?
Sara O’Toole, RN, BSN, School Health Services

There really is no one-size-fits-all answer. So the Department of Health will take the information that we give to them, they will investigate, and they consider a variety of factors in determining any quarantine decisions, who might need to do it, and then for how long, and they will provide us with that information.

What will lunch look like now?
Bob Poth, Area Superintendent

  • Middle and high school will probably see more lunch periods
  • Tables farther apart
  • Marks where to sit; mark where to stand in line
  • Some high schools will have the option to have lunch at the end of the day where you can grab and go
  • Students will wear their mask anytime they’re not eating

 

How will arrival and dismal look?
Bob Poth, Area Superintendent

All schools are putting a comprehensive plan together for arrival and dismissal; they’re working with their individual superintendents to get feedback and input on that and come to a plan that fits the needs of their school.

Will students be able to use lockers?
Bob Poth, Area Superintendent

 

  • Lockers will not be assigned at the beginning of the school year
  • Backpacks are permitted

What about clubs and extracurricular activities?
Bob Poth, Area Superintendent

  • Clubs will continue. When possible, they will be done virtually at the beginning of the school year for the first nine weeks and then be revisited
  • There are some extracurricular activities that may be permitted by the area superintendent

What if I want to homeschool my child?
Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent

If homeschool is an option that you think is appropriate, you can contact the school district, and we can connect you with our homeschool office and walk you through that process.

Will there be extra masks available at school?
Dr. Bill Corbett, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent

Yes, there will be extra masks available at every school, and for the fear that students are going to lose them, we also have lanyards so the students can just clip the mask of the lanyard so if it falls off or they put it down they won’t lose it.

Dr. Grego said the district ordered 500,000 masks with three different sizes. They will provide students, free of charge, five washable masks each. Bus drivers will also have some spare masks.

Is there mental health help?
Sara O’Toole, RN, BSN, School Health Services

As a school district, we have Student Services staff, which are school psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, and school nurses who are ready. We have been providing services to our students even in the spring when we were virtual, and we will continue to do that for the mental health and wellness of our kids.

For more information on the reopening plan, visit pcsb.org or click here to view a downloadable pdf.

If you questions, comments, or concerns for the district, please utilize their Let’s Talk feature by logging on to pcsb.org/domain/211.

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