Starting next week, parents of students in Jefferson County schools will have to decide how their kids will start the 2020 school year. The recently approved district “school roadmap” includes traditional in-person classes, remote learning with Jefferson County teachers, or virtual learning with outsourced teachers, but at a press conference this afternoon, Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said traditional in-person learning may not happen if coronavirus numbers continue to rise.
“You know we’re not health officials, and so there’s going to be a point where we have to rely upon the health officials to say ‘hey guys, look, these are the numbers this is what has to happen.’ And if that occurs we will be prepared to make that call,” Gonsoulin said.
Gonsoulin said over the last two weeks, the district has held virtual town halls to hear concerns from parents, faculty and school staff, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Their concerns ranged from the sanitation of buses to teaching remotely and what happens if a student tests positive, according to Gonsoulin.
“Transportation, that’s the one – and I’m just being totally transparent – that’s the one that gives me pause,” Gonsoulin said. “You can imagine, on any given day we have 50 to 70 kids on a bus. Closed area and a bus driver.”
Gonsoulin said face masks are mandatory for all students over the age of six. The district will provide students face masks or laptops depending on whether they are learning in person or remotely. Gonsoulin said after safety, the next top priority is making sure every student gets fed.
“That’s very important,” Gonsoulin said. “When school starts, for those people that are remote we will activate and deploy our school buses and we will find areas we’ll be dropping off lunches. We will find a way to feed our children.”
Parents can expect to receive a survey next week asking them which option they want for their children. Parents must return the survey by August 3. The board will likely vote on how to reopen schools later that week.
Other highlights from the Jefferson County Education Roadmap:
- Six “smart buses” with built-in wifi will be provided for areas with Kimberly and Corner, which have less access to broadband
- Teachers will received professional development on techniques for digital teaching
- The district has ordered about 2,000 laptops for faculty and staff, as well as personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, masks and face shields
- Services like occupational and physical therapy will still be provided for students in special education programs
- Each school will now have its own nurse
- Accommodations will be made for faculty and staff who have school-aged children
- Each nine weeks, students and parents will have the option to change their method of education
The school board is considering a $30 hazard pay for all employees that are considered essential workers.