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Wood County Schools to begin on staggered schedule

Draft reopening plan calls for mix of in-person, online

Superintendent Will Hosaflook reads from a summary sheet Tuesday concerning a draft reopening plan for Wood County Schools. Officials say the school system will begin the 2020-21 school year on a staggered schedule to allow staff and students time to adapt to coronavirus safety requirements. (Photo by Michael Erb)

PARKERSBURG — Wood County Schools will begin the 2020-21 school year on a staggered schedule to give students and staff time to adapt to coronavirus requirements and recommendations.

Superintendent Will Hosaflook presented a brief overview of the draft reentry plan Tuesday to the Wood County Board of Education, and following the meeting the summary sheet was released to the public.

The reentry plan works on a stoplight system: Green is school as normal, yellow is a hybrid of in-person and online instruction, and red would be fully online.

“We really only have three options: We go to school full time; we go to school sometime; or we don’t go to school at all and we do it remotely,” Hosaflook said.

Under a yellow option, students would alternate between going to school and doing work online. To reduce the number of students in a classroom at a time, each school will have half of each grade level attend on alternating days. One group would go Monday and Wednesday while the other would go Tuesday and Thursday. Both groups would do remote learning on Fridays to allow the buildings to be cleaned.

Students also would take home meals for the following day when they are not in school. Hosaflook said the number of meals prepared each day would be the same as if all students were eating at school, but distribution of take home meals would be done by principals and teachers.

Visitors to schools would be limited to certain areas of the building and all visitors would be screened before entering by a school nurse or designated personnel.

Because of the newness and complexity of the yellow option, the school system likely will begin the year with a staggered schedule.

“We’d start in a yellow stage to teach the new procedures,” he said. “It is going to be a very different environment.”

Board Vice President Rick Olcott said a recent parent survey showed the majority of people are hoping for a relatively normal school year.

“They certainly want to see us with all of our students in class” for the week, he said. “How do they do a work schedule around a yellow framework? It’s going to be very challenging.

“If we start (the school year) on yellow, I hope it is for a defined period of time.”

Hosaflook said that will depend on coronavirus and health agency guidance.

“I cannot make that decision. I am a professional educator,” he said. “We have to rely on the (health) professionals to help us and guide us on making this decision.”

Olcott agreed.

“In this situation, you’re not going to please everyone,” he said. “we don’t want to put the students and staff at risk.”

Board member Judy Johnson, a retired educator and administrator, asked how personal protective equipment would be handled for teachers at the lower grades where reading instruction relies heavily on students being able to see a person talk to understand how words are formed and to pick up on visual cues.

“I am a little concerned about pre-kindergarten through second grade,” she said. “When you’re reading, they have to see your mouth. There is a lot of one-on-one instruction.”

Hosaflook said the district already has purchased clear face shields which will allow those teachers to instruct for periods of time without wearing a mask.

But Hosaflook cautioned, the need for personal protective equipment for all instructional levels and students in grades 3-12 comes at a cost. Hosaflook estimated the cost alone of disposable masks will cost the district about $1.2 million-1.4 million.

“It adds up,” he said.

Hosaflook said while all schools will have hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment available, each school will have to determine the best ways for students to keep social distancing. For example, Hosaflook said directional arrows in hallways would work fine for elementary schools where students spend the majority of the day in one or two rooms, but for high schools they would cause massive delays while students switched classes each period.

“You’d go from five minutes between classes to 10 or 15,” he said.

The draft plan and calendar can be found at woodcountyschoolswv.com under Live Stream. Residents also can comment on the plan through the district’s web site.

Hosaflook said he hopes to bring a final plan to the board July 21 for review and approval.

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