Let's Get Back to School
Public education across America this spring was unprecedented as schools across the country closed for the remainder of the year. Students, parents and staff stepped up to provide education remotely. The sudden shift to remote learning provided many lessons about how to make sure learning continues for students next fall regardless of the status of the coronavirus pandemic.
Results from a parent survey regarding opening school provided important input into the planning for next fall. Parents offered a wide range of expectations, concerns and ideas for next fall’s start of school. The common theme, however, was that students need to continue to learn in school at high levels in the fall.
The information from the parent survey was reinforced by participants in a series of seven separate focus groups that represented teachers, principals, district support staff, parents, businesses, students, and elected officials.
Guidance from public health officials was also an important part of developing the plans for next fall. West Ada has a complete pandemic plan that has been approved by Central District Health. At the end of this document are links to some of the public health sources West Ada used to prepare this plan.
West Ada School District’s plan is to be open on August 27, 2020. Students will be assessed to identify any gaps in learning that need to be addressed. West Ada will offer two options this fall. The first is to attend school as normal with extra safety measures in place. For families who are not comfortable returning to school, West Ada will offer an online option through its Virtual School House.
One to One Devices
One of the key lessons from this spring is that students and teachers need to be connected even if they are not able to meet in traditional classrooms. To accomplish this objective, West Ada will be purchasing enough laptop computers to make sure that every student has access to learning. Students in grades K-2 will be issued iPads or a laptop, and students in grades 3-12 will be issued laptop computers. These devices will become part of the everyday delivery of education regardless of whether school is physically in session or learning is being delivered remotely. By integrating this technology into the learning process students will still be able to receive instruction, turn in assignments, and receive feedback from their teacher even if school is not able to be held in a traditional classroom.
Providing computers for all students will require a significant investment. West Ada is able to make this investment without further reducing its operating budget and needing to cut programs. New computers will be purchased using local revenue that must be used for capital projects in combination with state revenue that must be used for classroom technology.
Training on the use of this technology is being provided to staff throughout the summer and immediately prior to the start of school. Information on the use of this technology will also be provided to parents and students. This training will include “live” sessions on the use of Microsoft Teams.
By August 20 West Ada will announce the final status of school opening on August 27. If schools cannot open, distribution of computers will begin so that remote learning can commence.
Planning for the Unknown
No one can predict the course of the current world-wide pandemic. Everyone hopes that the spread will have slowed – or ended.
One of the lessons from this spring is that West Ada needs to be prepared for any scenario. In preparation for the 2020-2021 school year, school staff and district leaders have prepared for three scenarios when schools reopen and will also add an additional option for families who choose not to send their students to school because of concerns about COVID-19.
West Ada is planning on being able to open in traditional classrooms in the fall. If West Ada enters the fall under orders that schools are closed, West Ada will go directly into remote learning with a computer device with access to the internet provided to every student.
Possible Scenarios for Next Fall
To make each of these scenarios easy to remember and implement, each possibility has been assigned a color designation:
Green – Normal School Operations
Minimal or moderate community transmission (as defined by Idaho Department of Health &Welfare) and no positive cases in a school
West Ada School District plans to start the year with schools open assuming conditions are the same as they are currently. Students will be issued computer devices that will become a regular part of the learning process. Students and teachers will conduct teaching and learning in their classrooms. Students will be instructed how to learn remotely using online tools in case remote learning becomes necessary. Buses will run. School lunch services will be provided.
Safety procedures will be in place to reduce the chance of the spread of illness in all scenarios:
Personal Protective Equipment
- Establish and maintain hand hygiene stations in key locations in school buildings
- Mask/face shields recommended but not required for staff/students
- Identify an isolation/screening room in each school
- Staff and students trained in physical distancing, handwashing, respiratory etiquette and mask use to mitigate exposure
- Hand sanitizer and promotion of regular hand washing
- Regular sanitation of desks and other hard surfaces and frequently touched parts of school buildings using electrostatically charged sprayer with cleaner approved to kill the coronavirus
- Arrangement of desks to account for physical distancing
- Limit the use of shared materials and spaces
Office Strategies and Other Non-Instructional Spaces
- Maintain six feet of distance when possible
- Regular sanitation of surfaces
- Hand sanitizer at all workstations
- Regular hot lunch menu will be available
- Lunch times staggered to reduce occupants in the cafeteria
- In addition to the cafeteria, alternative lunch locations will be available depending on the facility’s design
- Offer options to eat outside
- Hand sanitizer at start of all serving lines
- Self-service of pre-packaged food items only
- Educational information will be posted about reducing the risk of spread of contagions
- No unscheduled visitors
- Limit visitors to parents and essential visitors on campus
- Lock exterior doors during school hours
- Develop parent pick-up and drop-off procedures at each school
- Implement strategies at each school that discourage gatherings in areas such as the bus lane, restrooms, recess, hallways, lunch, before and after school
- Limit field trips, assemblies, and other large gatherings if physical distancing cannot be achieved
Online School with Virtual School House
For families who do not feel comfortable sending their student to school, the Virtual School House will offer a full online option for students. At the elementary level, students will be taught the same subjects and standards as are taught at a traditional school. Teachers will collect work and provide feedback. Assessments and assignments will be graded. Group discussions will be part of the school day. At the secondary level, students will be able to choose from a selection of the academic courses that are available at traditional middle and high schools. High school students will register for English, math, science, social studies, etc. and will have the option to register for Honors and Advanced Placement versions of these courses, which will be offered depending on student enrollment numbers. Students enrolled in the Virtual School House will be able to earn a West Ada high school diploma. Students can also participate in sports and activities at their home high school. To register your interest in attending West Ada’s Virtual School House this fall, please use the following link: Virtual School House.
Yellow – Alternate Day Schedule
Moderate community transmission (as defined by Idaho Department of Health & Welfare) and positive case(s) with some risk of exposure in an individual school and/or within the District
West Ada developed this contingency plan as an option to avoid complete school closure. The plan’s implementation will be determined by guidance from Central District Health and other Idaho governmental authorities that have jurisdiction over school operations. If physical distancing requirements become more stringent, schools may go to an alternating schedule with half the students attending one day and the other half of students attending on the alternating days that keeps families on the same school schedule. When not in school, students will use their issued computer device to continue learning remotely.
West Ada recognizes that this plan places an additional burden on families who will need to make accommodations for the days when their students are not in school. This scenario was developed to avoid a complete school closure in order to maintain regular contact between teachers and students.
Red – School Buildings Closed
Substantial community transmission (as defined by Idaho Department of Health & Welfare) and widespread positive case(s) with significant risk of exposure within a school and/or multiple schools
If there is a state-wide or local order to close all schools or an individual school, learning will continue remotely. By adopting 1-1 internet enabled devices for students, the transition to remote learning will happen immediately. Students will interact with their peers and teachers using an internet-enabled device. Students will submit work and receive feedback. Assessments and grading will continue until schools can reopen.
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
West Ada works with the Idaho High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and the Southern Idaho Conference (SIC) to develop plans for activities and athletics in fall of the 2020-2021 school year. As additional information is available about fall activities, West Ada School District will provide that information to parents and students.
Guidelines Provided by Governmental Entities
West Ada School District follows the recommended guidelines of the State of Idaho, the State Board of Education and the Central District Health Department regarding opening school buildings safely. Outlined in the following webpages are the guidelines developed by each entity. Links provided in this plan are most recent available.
Your Feedback is Valuable
If you have comments, suggestions or concerns about West Ada School District’s plans to reopen in the fall, please click here to submit your feedback, and thank you.
Additional information about how students will be kept engaged in learning, regardless of the status of the current pandemic, will be provided in future communication.