KEARNEY — It’s still too soon to say what exactly next school year will look like for Kearney Public Schools.
However, the district has developed multiple scenarios, each depending on the status of coronavirus cases.
The hope, Superintendent Kent Edwards explained during Monday night’s board retreat meeting, is that Buffalo County has moved to Phase 4 of reopening, meaning the district would be “green” and ready for a fairly normal fall semester.
Currently, in Phase 3 of reopening, the district would be in a “yellow” zone, which calls for various restrictions, but still in-person classes. The deviation from a normal school year increases from there, up to a full-on remote learning experience like was the case this spring.
Not knowing what state the area will be in seven weeks from now, Edwards said the district aimed to make plans that were both “nimble and versatile.”
Board member Alex Straatmann said that setting multiple different scenarios is a wise choice, allowing the district to adapt.
“I really do appreciate the fact that this is a broad plan, giving us flexibility because we still don’t know what August is still going to look like. I think that’s still a roll of the dice,” Straatmann said. “But not locking ourselves into one plan gives us the flexibility to adjust if we need to, whether it’s July, August or we get into September and things change.”
The complete plan was posted on the KPS website, kearneypublicschools.org, immediately after the meeting. The district also has sent to parents a survey that asks them to provide feedback on the plans.
The plans involve five scenarios, which detail the calendar for classes. The ins and outs of the school day are determined by four different color “operational zones.”
The five scenarios are:
- Scenario A: School is in session as planned, starting in August.
- Scenario B: The school year is altered by adjusting the start or end of the year or by changing vacation or professional development days. Instructional requirements for class time still would be met.
- Scenario C: School is in session, as outlined in Scenario A or B, with occasional short-term closures, as would be activated by a student or staff member testing positive for COVID-19.
- Scenario D: A hybrid of in-person classes and remote learning, able to be accomplished in a variety of ways.
-Scenario E: Instruction is entirely online.
From there, the district plan details various operational zones, ranging from a “green” all-clear to a “red” full-pandemic risk, as was set by Gov. Pete Ricketts’ Phase 1 restrictions this spring.
“Yellow” and “orange” zones are dependent on the number of confirmed cases in KPS buildings, directed health measures, guidance from the Two Rivers Public Health Department and guidance from the governor or commissioner of education.
Here is a breakdown of what school may look like in each of the operational zones. Some differences will be present between secondary and primary schools:
In this scenario, much of the school day would return to a pre-pandemic state with students returning to an in-person teaching environment.
Temperature checks of staff and students would occur twice a day, once at the beginning of the day and again around lunchtime. Students with a temperature reading higher than 100.4 would be sent home, after a secondary check with a school nurse, and the child would be asked to stay home from school for 72 hours, or earlier if cleared by a doctor’s note. Visitors also would need a temperature check.
Daily routine cleaning would occur based on infectious disease protocols.
At the beginning of the day, students in grades 6-12 who are in the building before 7:45 a.m. would need to be in a supervised, approved meeting or practice. In kindergarten through eighth grade, students will enter the building when doors open and go directly to their assigned areas, as determined by the principal.
In this scenario, students would return to school in-person, but increased social distancing would be in place. The safeguards outlined in Scenario A would be in place, such as temperature checks, but many measures have been heightened.
Masks and/or face shields would be provided by the district for all staff members and students as requested. Staff would be required to wear masks, but it would be optional for students. Masks also would be required for visitors and at all KPS-sponsored events.
In the classroom, desks would be separated, not arranged in pods, avoiding face-to-face seating. Shared furniture and other shared items would be minimized. For activities like physical education, equipment would be cleaned between classes.
Buildings would have increased disinfecting measures to help stop the spread of illness.
Breakfast would be eaten in classrooms, for those students who eat breakfast at school, and lunch would be eaten in the cafeteria with increased physical distancing. Some food items would be limited, and parents would not be allowed to eat lunch with their children.
The number of children on the playground at recess would be limited to one classroom at a time, and no jump ropes, balls or lightweight hoops would be available. Equipment would be cleaned daily.
Teachers would need to be in the building at 7:45 ready to receive students in kindergarten through eighth grade, as when students enter the building after 7:45, they would go right to classrooms. At the end of the day, buildings may stagger dismissal times.
The district’s “1:1 devices,” like Chromebooks, would be sent home daily with students, so that in the event a building closure would occur, students already would have materials to transition to distance learning.
Off-site elementary and preschool field trips would be suspended until further notice.
Orange keeps many of the restrictions of a yellow zone and increases several measures.
In this state, students also would be required to wear masks. Officials did note at the school board meeting that special education students may be exempt from this requirement, per their individualized educational plan.
Meals would be eaten in the classroom.
Students and teachers would report to school based on the schedule determined by the administration, as a hybrid schedule may be adopted. Buildings may stagger dismissal and dismiss from multiple locations.
No visitors would be allowed. Field trips would not be available.
Water fountains would be closed and students would be encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
Using the restroom during passing periods, for the upper grade levels, would be prohibited.
Disinfecting procedures would be increased.
In this zone, school would function similarly to how it proceeded this spring.
Instruction would be remote and buildings would close, negating the various other measures like mask-wearing.
Lunch and breakfast would be provided in a to-go format at designated schools.