As schools consider how they will approach reopening, Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle proposed a phased plan that utilizes a blended method of education. He shared this four-phase approach, which is to restore, reconstruct, refine and return, with the Tallapoosa County Board of Education at Tuesday’s meeting.
“A more realistic view is we’re going to have to open doing some type of remote learning, packets, bricks and mortar and a rotating schedule,” Windle said.
Phase 1 is to activate the educational plan and task principals to develop cross-disciplinary teams. Phase 2 is to develop instructional plans in reading and math focused on current reading and math assessment data.
Phase 3 is to reassess culture, academic and social growth, which is ongoing preparation for future outbreaks. Teachers will reassess remote learning options, educational packets and rotating schedules.
Phase 4 concludes with all students back on campus moving forward with a new normal.
Windle said the current plan does not include virtual summer school for Tallapoosa County Schools or a mid- to late-July reading academy for grades kindergarten through third.
“The question is, do we want to do a summer reading academy based on January’s data based on testing for reading and math?” he said. “Or do we want to wait and put our resources into an after-school program beginning in August when we come back?”
The proposed reading academy would be in-person learning adhering to the Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines including face coverings for teachers and social distancing, as well as limiting groups to 10 or 12.
“I think we will get more value out of knowing exactly where our students stand based on current assessments rather than a summer reading academy based on January’s data,” Windle said. “We will assess our (kindergarten) through third-grade students to account for the summer slide and this summer is a long slide.”
The county schools are scheduled to return Aug. 21 with a modified school calendar involving no fall break.
“We moved our calendar that was approved in February to prepare for a later start date based on the tourist industry,” Windle said. “(I think) they’re going to win the legislative battle to have at least 12 weeks of summer because it involves an economic impact.”
Windle slowly adapted this 2019-20 school year to make the change easier to accommodate for the upcoming year.
“We wanted to get our workforce and student accustomed to starting later and with shorter breaks,” he said. “The law requires 180 days or 1,080 hours of instructional time and 187 days for teachers. It’s impossible to have a fall break, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break and spring break and still meet those dates.”
Last year the county schools had a shortened fall break and this year there won’t be one at all.
Based on recent CDC recommendations, Windle said there are many impossibilities suggested including social distancing on buses but said feeding certain students in the classroom could be feasible.
“As far as feeding and the cafeteria, I think we’re looking at a combination of some students being fed in the classroom and some grade levels in the cafeteria,” he said. “We will look at the clothing and personal equipment our lunchroom workers wear; there will be sneeze guards in front of serving lines and we may keep the younger kids in the classroom so we’re not moving them as much.”
As of June 1, all 11- and 12-month employees will return to work on a scheduled developed by each of the school’s principals. The central office staff will also come back to work on a summer schedule with very limited access to the public.
“The maintenance crew, technology crew and bus shop, those three supervisors will develop a work schedule for their crews because it’s different,” Windle said.
The major concern Windle faces is continuing remote learning with the lack of suitable internet access for students.
“How well can we do remote learning because we know there is going to be remote learning come this fall; not everybody will come back to campus all at one time,” Windle said. “We want to offer this viable option to parents if they feel August is too great of a risk. (This option) certainly will not like being in a face-to-face classroom but it’s learning taking place and we have a way to assess that learning.”