Granton opts for early school start date
Aug. 25 will be the official start to the 2020-21 school year at the Granton School District after the Granton School Board unanimously approved a school start waiver to move the start date from Sept. 1. What exactly that first day of school will look like, however, is still unknown as the Board tries to balance the needs of its students with the safety of everyone at the district.
The Granton Board talked at length during its regular meeting on July 13 about its options for the start of the school year and how to run a school day with all the recommended precautions put in place. Dennis Kaczor, the new district administrator at the Granton School District, gave a rough plan to the Board on a likely scenario that would play out if the school decided to return to face-toface classes beginning on the Aug. 25 date.
The face-to-face option was the option most discussed during the meeting. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, the district conducted an online survey with parents on its Facebook page to see what parents thoughts were on returning to school in the fall. According to that survey, most parents stated they preferred face-to-face teaching at the school, with only a small group of parents stating they would be against their child returning.
“As we know, this spring has been goofy,” said Kaczor. “We don’t know exactly what we’re up against coming into this fall. According to our survey, parents would like their kids to come back face-to-face.”
With the goal of face-to-face instruction in mind, Kaczor said there are some things they already know will have to change for this fall based on problems students had at the end of the last school year, when classes for all grades were held online.
“We have a plan for a two-pronged approach to teach,” he said. “Students who don’t want to come back or test positive can Zoom in … we need to have all staff prepare for a two-prong approach. In the spring there were two things we were lacking, one was a consistent way of com- munication. For example, we had Google classrooms, different platforms parents had to navigate, and two is that the district left it up to the parents to determine a student’s schedule.”
This uniformity in both tools and schedule, Kaczor said, will be essential in helping students regain a sense of normalcy in a year that is not normal. Using the two-pronged approach of both face-to-face teaching and online tools, he said, would also help students who are not comfortable returning and those students who may come down with the virus the ability to transition back into the classroom when it is safe.
“If you have a student that has to self quarantine for 14 days, it will be too hard for them to go their own way for two weeks and then have to reintegrate into the classroom,” he said. “They should stay with the regular classroom in a virtual sense.”
Besides using this approach to teaching, Kaczor said the district will be following guidelines from the Clark County Health Department throughout the process. At this point, he said the district is looking at separating students into smaller groups throughout the school day to keep the chances of a school wide outbreak lower.
“We will refer a student to the Clark County Health Department (if they test positive),” he said. “We will also quarantine anyone who has been in contact with them for 15 total minutes per day. We will need to divide them all into small groups. For example, if there’s 16 kids, that equals four groups of four, they learn together, play together, eat together. If one of them gets the virus, those four would self-quarantine, not all the students. Staff, if they’re asymptomatic, teach from home, if possible.”
Although the general consensus was that face-to-face teaching would be ideal beginning on Aug. 25, members of the Board wondered how that could be done realistically. After the presentation, some members of the Board asked questions about other aspects of coming back to school that weren’t addressed in Kaczor’s plan. Though they were not expected to be answered at the meeting, the questions dealt with “What if” scenarios, and issues with transportation, staffing and cleaning procedures.
“How do we react if there’s a positive test? I myself don’t test positive, but they put me in quarantine. What is the protocol for that?” asked Board member Cheryl Steinbach. “What about our daily bus cleaning schedule, the impact on drivers and pay? … What about substitutes? We have two or three custodial staff and food staff. Our sub list is not that big in Granton.”
“I don’t think the Board knows what the options are,” added Paul Knoff. “Everyone wants their kids to come back. To achieve that goal, we need to think outside the box. We need to figure out the school bus transportation, it’s very hard to socially distance on a school bus. If a kid refuses to socially distance, does the driver have to pull the bus over?”
Kaczor and high school principal Amanda Kraus said a Back to School Committee comprised of staff members had already been formed by the time of the July 13 meeting and was expected to look at many of the scenarios and questions asked by the Board in the coming weeks. The committee, they said, would come up with a more detailed plan that would be released to parents at the end of the month before being used in a trial run during the summer school session planned for Aug. 10-14.
To make sure the committee is meeting the concerns of the Board, the Board requested that at least one member be allowed to sit in on the Back to School Committee’s meetings, which was approved. The Board also decided later in the meeting to keep the school swimming pool closed indefinitely due to the pandemic.