Willcox and Bowie schools have tentative plans for the upcoming fall semester, but the key word is “tentative,” officials said.
Willcox is still collecting information and feedback from local parents on what they want, said Willcox School Superintendent Kevin Davis. As this point in time, the plan is for Willcox students will begin classes online August 10 and then come back to school in shifts beginning Aug. 17.
“How long it lasts (the plan) depends on what the state wants us to do,” said Davis.
Davis said the current plan for the fall semester includes classroom shifts between online and in class. These shifts are referred to as staggering.
Students will attend school two days of the week, the other two days the students will have an online curriculum.
The semester was planned this way so student numbers are smaller and social distancing is easier to accomplish, Davis said. Parents can pick which days their children attend school so siblings can go together.
Temperatures will be taken before the students ride the bus or enter the school. Any child exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will have to be kept out of school. Davis said the school will be relying on parents heavily to keep staff and students healthy.
“We need to really get help from parents and families to monitor their children and if they are sick or have signs and symptoms of the virus, which are very similar to cold and flu, they need to not send their child to school,” said Davis. “Because when they get here and they have those signs and symptoms we are going to contact them and have them pick them up. We need to work together.”
The school is strongly recommending the use of masks and social distancing, but masks are not required. However, when the students need to be in close contact with each other, like completing a science project, they will be asked to wear them, Davis said.
Hand sanitizer will be made available and desks will be placed six feet apart from each other in order for the students to social distance.
The district will be hiring two more janitors as well as a bus driver this year in order to provide cleanliness and transportation. An aerosol cleaner with sprayers will be purchased and used to sanitize the classrooms and buses after the initial cleaning by the janitorial staff.
When asked what will happen if a teacher becomes sick with the virus, Davis said the school will hire temporary staff to educate the class.
“We have very few substitutes across this whole county, so if we can find substitutes we will use substitutes. If we have to use paraprofessionals (teacher’s aid) we will use paraprofessionals.” said Davis. “We won’t know until we cross that bridge.”
When asked what would happen if a student becomes ill with COVID-19, Davis said it will depend on the county’s recommendations. The entire class may not be quarantined immediately, but it depends on the situation and the advice of the health department.
If parents have concerns or questions, Davis said he would like them to contact him or the school district.
Bowie School Superintendent Wendy Conger said Bowie students will be returning to school August 10 with learning packets. If things go as planned, classes will resume with social distancing measures in place Aug. 17.
Masks will be highly recommended in the school, but not required. Temperatures will be taken before riding the bus or entering the school. Pickup schedules have been changed so students will be arriving at the school five minutes before class and desks will be placed further apart.
In order to sanitize each classroom daily, Bowie Schools used their CARES Act funding to purchase three UV light sanitization mobile units. Conger especially likes these sanitization units because they do not leave a chemical residue behind.
Educating the staff and students on COVID-19 itself was another element Conger said she needed to do. After educating her staff and students, the students themselves will be given the opportunity for counseling every Monday. After being separated from teachers and friends for months, Conger said students will be given whatever emotional support that they need at the school.
“If you are about the kids first, nothing else matters,” said Conger. “We need to get counseling for their emotional well-being as well as providing counseling as an outlet and an option. We need to make sure their health needs and emotional needs are being met.”
If a student or teacher becomes sick with COVID-19, Conger said the district will have no other option but to quarantine the class and teacher. Learning packets will be sent home for the students in quarantine.
Parents consider the options
Willcox resident and parent of a Willcox high school student Crystal Hadfield gave her opinion on the upcoming fall schedule by email on Monday.
“I don’t have a problem with it. My daughter is a student at WHS and honestly does better at online learning as opposed to a classroom setting. I think that the mixture of both will be great for her until they can go back full time,” wrote Hadfield.
Sherry Lynn Van Allen said she has a student in both Bowie and Willcox high schools. Both of her students are on individualized education plans.
Placing one of her students in Bowie schools was the best thing she could do because of the small class sizes and one-on-one learning environment, she said. However, as the fall semester approaches, Allen is worried about online classes for her Willcox student.
“My kids can’t learn online with us working all the time. It was a battle getting the last couple of months of school completed,” said Allen. “But we don’t have a lot of choice and he doesn’t want to get behind like he did last year.”
She doesn’t believe that people should stop living because of COVID-19, Allen said. Life and school has to continue on and Allen said she hopes everyone can stay safe while doing so.