Rutherford County Schools will be open in the fall, but how students will attend was up for debate until Thursday, July 9 when the Board of Education made their final decision.
Citing a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the board voted to "mitigate the risk" and send more than 49,000 students back full-time in the fall. A committee that studied the options overwhelmingly recommended returning with a traditional calendar in the fall.
Lisa Moore made a motion, which was seconded by Tiffany Johnson, to adopt the traditional option with options for parents of medically fragile children to have access to distance learning with the caveat to revisit reopening should things go sideways.
Jeff Jordan pointed out that many areas of the county have spotty internet service.
Further discussion included masking for medically fragile students and teachers, buying palettes of bleach for back-up cleaning supplies and giving teachers and staff a bonus.
The motion passed unanimously.
The American Academy of Pediatrics statement
"The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020," the academy said.
The statement also said: "Children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection."
The AAP recommends social distancing, proper hygiene, temperature checks and screening questions, and masks on the students when possible.
If a student or teacher is diagnosed with COVID-19, they will be allowed to return after three symoptom-free days.
Keeping things clean
Trey Lee, RCS superintendent of engineering, said the system has developed a cleaning plan and are ordering supplies that are safe to be used around students and have a four-second kill time. The protocols include cleaning between classes and extended bell times to allow for the cleaning.
Supplies will also be distributed to bus drivers, who will be required to clean twice a day. Drivers and students will be required to wear masks and the front row will be off limits to students. Windows will be required to be open to increase air flow in the bus.
RCS asked parents to give their opinions in a survey.
With more than 19,000 responses, Spurlock said 59 percent responded that they would send their kids back to school, while only 6 percent said they would not send their children in the fall. In addition, 29 percent said their kids often ride the bus and 6 percent said their kids would ride occasionally. Only 21 percent responded they would prefer the fully online option.
What were the options?
Traditional: Return to fully in-person opportunities for students in a traditional format. Modifications to logistical operations as needed (arrival, dismissal, class changes, etc. to mitigate virus transmission). An option will be provided to parents who choose for their child to receive distance learning instruction for a semester.
Hybrid: Both on-campus learning as well as distance-learning. The model would be an alternating schedule for on-campus and distance-learning. A proposed A-B schedule where some students would be on campus receiving instruction while at the same time others would receive distance learning instruction. This schedule would be alternating, with everyone receiving distance learning instruction on Fridays. Modifications to logistical operation as needed (arrival, dismissal, class changes, etc. to mitigate virus transmission).
Distance Learning – Everyone will be receiving distance-learning instruction. Determination as to when students and staff can transition back to on-campus instruction will be made in conjunction with the state and local health departments. Once this is determined it will be brought to the Rutherford County School Board for approval.
You can watch the meeting in the video below.