BISBEE — Students at Greenway Elementary, Lowell Junior High and Bisbee High schools will be back on the hybrid schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 16, according to district superintendent Tom Woody.
If the positive cases of COVID–19 continue to decline, Woody expects the final quarter of the school year may be back to normal and an in-person schedule would be set in place.
The news came during the meeting of the Bisbee Unified District Board Tuesday night with Carol Loy, Ann Littrell, Erin Rhodes, Chris Vertrees and Brian Ott present.
Currently the county meets the benchmark on the number of cases per 100,000 which sits at 9%, unofficially, he said. The cutoff is 10%. Meeting this benchmark allows hybrid classes to begin with two days a week in the classroom and two days online.
“Things are looking positive in the county,” he said. “Safety protocols are in place and more people are following them.”
In a parent survey, 81 percent said their children used masks frequently outside of school and 67 percent said they followed social distancing recommendations, said Jen McBeth, district director of instruction. Of the 120 survey responses, 72 percent said they were limiting outside interactions with other people.
The schools still require wearing masks, social distancing and disinfecting surfaces and restrooms during the hybrid schedule.
Though cases are declining, he said there could be another spike in numbers due to the Super Bowl and its watch parties and Valentine’s Day.
Woody said he plans on holding in-person classes for summer school this year, as long as positive cases remain low.
Administrators determined it would be safe to hold spring sports like baseball, softball, tennis and track, though at the high school level only for now. Next month, Woody said he would re-evaluate opening sports for Lowell.
Principals Laura Miller and Lindsay Vertrees reported an increase in the number of i- person students being served and some of that is due to concerned parents of struggling students.
Vertrees said, “The number of students utilizing our onsite learning labs has increased over the past week, indicating that students are in need of support and a structured setting to complete their work. We are now utilizing two computer labs, the library and two additional classrooms to hold the number of students on campus. Learning labs continue to be monitored by paraprofessionals. If our numbers continue to grow in size we may have to begin placing students in classrooms with teachers.”
Miller said the number of students at the Lowell campus increased two fold over last month. She had to “borrow” a paraprofessional from the high school to help out in the learning lab.
“We sent out retention letters to the families and it resulted in more students coming to school,” added Miller. “We’ve made it clear to the families that the student is responsible for their education.”
Lowell had a slight problem with truancy and attendance, she said. To get students back on track she is working with Bisbee Police Chief Albert Echave and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to “nail down a system.”
Miller and Vertrees reported a large portion of faculty and staff, 85 percent at Lowell and 66 percent at Greenway, have received their first shots or have appointments set for the first dose.
Littrell told Miller, “I’m delighted teachers are taking the vaccine. It’s important to get the kids back to school.”
All three principals praised their paraprofessionals for the work they are doing in the learning labs with the onsite students. To build on their skills, they will be required to take a few online courses and will have access to many others, said McBeth.
The district office on Melody Lane has lots of open, unused land and the Copper Queen Library and Bisbee Science Lab are interested in doing a few projects to enhance children’s engagement opportunities.
Woody plans to form a committee of the interested parties and hold a meeting in March to go over what they would like to do. The committee will include members of the Bisbee Science Lab and the Copper Queen Library.
One of the most important projects to the board members was creating soccer fields.
Littrell said the sport was becoming popular again and the district could use good soccer fields and suggested adding one for the younger children.
“There is no place in Bisbee to practice youth football,” she added. “We need sports fields with real grass for the kids.”
Woody said he was not opposed to sports fields, but “as a district I don’t think we can maintain another field.”
Litrell said the city at one time had planned on developing another field, but nothing came of it.
“I think we should poll the population,” said Litrell.