Manchester City Schools has laid out the initial plans for safely returning to school in the fall. Essentially, the COVID-19 situation is a wait-and-see game, but the district is planning for a series of scenarios that are anticipated, depending on how the pandemic plays out over the summer.
During the June meeting of the Manchester Board of Education, held virtually, administrators offered what has so far been planned out and what still is in the air for next school year.
The state Department of Education released guidelines last week that included recommendations available now.
“Based on what has been provided by the state, we are steps ahead,” said Director of Schools Dr. Joey Vaughn.
“Our hope is that school will start as normal but we have to plan in case it does not. We are focusing on 3 major areas: Academics – Traditional and Remote/Distance Learning, Social and Emotional Care, and Learning Check-Ups. Task force teams are working in each area to plan for our student’s success,” Vaughn said.
He said that a committee of county and city administrators, along with local health care professionals and the Health Department is being formed to monitor the COVID-19 situation.
“(Their recommendations) will be a major component going forward on when and how we will open back up. Any reopening plan will be presented before the board for approval.”
The board will discuss reopening in early July for a work session before the first week of August when school was scheduled to return.
Heading the 11 member task force on academics, Dr. Mick Shuran addressed the board, explaining that if the school year is disrupted there will be plans in place.
“We got caught off guard last year, but I feel our district handled it well. We want to be proactive and be prepared for any disruption that could occur,” he said.
There are three possible scenarios the team looked at: regular school, distance school and a hybrid of the two.
“We found that structure, communication and accountability are areas that needed emphasis for future groups for instruction and testing,” he said.
Structure, what platforms are being used to deliver instruction, need to be consistent across the district. Access by students and communication with the parents will be further addressed.
“This group is creating a structure for the expectations for the district,” Shuran said. “The instructional model will address what does teaching look like (in these scenarios).”
A remote learning framework will be developed within the week. An instructional group and whole child group will meet throughout the summer.
Whole Child addresses, in part, emotional well being with students. Task Force head, Dana Morris anticipates a variety of levels of emotional distress from the pandemic among student populations.
“After school grants have been applied for for students who really need that emotional support. We will have support for students in school and after school,” Morris explained.
Additionally, the annual WECARE event will be Aug. 1 in a drive through format. Parents will have scheduled times to pick up food and supplies. Students will have to be present.
The accountability task force has looked at each grade level to see what each has missed during the closure.
“We have that identified, so that we can start that in August at the start of school,” Vaughn said. “We will not come back and immediately start testing kids to see where they are. We have to get them back in and comfortable. The learning will take place; the assessments will come down the road,” he said.
Director of Attendance/ Accountability and Testing Randall Robinson outlined the proposed online registration platform. He cautioned that there are two different processes for new to the district students and returning students.
New student online enrollment can allow parents to enroll new students without coming to the school building. Returning students registration (similar to the abbreviated first day back registration day) is available via parent portal. It will not open until July 1.
The online portal will offer a place to upload student documentation, packets and forms.
The benefit of the online forms is that parents can directly access and sign important forms without large packets of materials being returned by students.
Parents without internet access can register students at the school. The online registration platform should be compatible with mobile devices.
Vaughn anticipated the transition to online registration to be relatively smooth for parents.
More information concerning registration is available at www.manchestercitysch.org.