By Shelby Stewart
At their special workshop meeting on Monday night, the Brandon Board of Education discussed what returning to in-person schooling might look like in the fall.
“We’re not on the spot where we have all of the answers on this, but I thought we would talk a little bit about some of the options,” said Dr. Matt Outlaw, superintendent. “Last week on Tuesday the Governor released the return to learn plan, that outlined a variety of guidelines.”
Though it is difficult to plan, as the state restrictions and plans are not set in stone, Outlaw has come up with an idea of what they might do for in-person schooling after discussing with staff and parents.
Due to COVID-19, schools have not been in-person for months, and with the pandemic being so uncertain, schools are struggling to plan ahead for what they will do when school resumes for the new school year.
“There is some conversation going on all across the state. The governor’s recommendation, it was recommended to do social distancing, as opposed to requiring, which was a surprise,” said Outlaw. “As a district, the one that we’ve been waiting for, the one that we continue to work on is the in-person option.”
Outlaw has a plan that would include splitting the schools into 2 groups, group A and group B. Group A, comprising of half the student population, would attend in-person schooling on one day, while Group B would be working on school from home. The groups would switch the next day, and continue alternating throughout the school year unless things change.
“This half day option is worst case scenario for in-person as long as we’re in phases 4 and 5, but there’s a possibility depending on what the recommendations end up coming out, that we might be back full time, full days, masks required grades 6-12,” said Outlaw. “There are pages and pages of cleaning regimens, so obviously those are an automatic.”
Outlaw also stressed that this is the only option that is still being discussed and worked out as far as plans for the fall, as they already are confident in the Brandon Virtual Learning and the Summit Virtual School as options for students should they need to do all virtual learning.
“It’s either going to be alternating, or we’re going back like normal,” said Outlaw of the in-person learning. “So in this model, a student would go to school every other day, and the other part would be extension learning from home. And that would be virtual, whatever that might be, some of the stuff we did during the spring. This is what we would have had to do if we were going to do all of the social distancing stuff that we had anticipated in the Governor’s report.”
Though the governor’s report only recommends social distancing in schools, the option is still being discussed since the state of the pandemic could change, as could rules for reopening. For elementary students, there would also be an option to do extension virtual learning from school.
“Up to 3 hours would be distance learning. Really, beyond that at elementary we thought that might be a bit too much, especially considering they’re going to school on opposite days, but this might be time that they’re doing homework from their classroom or other distance learning as we saw during the spring,” said Outlaw. “This would be a great time for specials. We could do things like independent reading time, we could do active time, students need to get up and they need to move, this might be additional recess or organized athletics or activity. They could be doing reading support or special education or academic support on those opposite days.”
The option is still being discussed, and plans are not set in place as to if the school will go back with this plan in place or full time like normal, but this topic is expected to be discussed at their July 20 regular meeting.