Officials respond to questions on school reopenings
July 8, 2020
With more than a month to go before area schools are set to open for fall instruction, there are still more questions than answers regarding COVID-19.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Floyd Superintendent Damon Terry said Monday when The News asked him about plans for the upcoming year.
Though not every school could be reached for comment, school plans generally fall into two areas.
The larger schools, Clovis and Portales, will look at a hybrid plan that will separate students into cohorts where one goes on campus while the other learns online and they shift roles during the week.
The smaller schools, meanwhile, are looking at ways to bring all students back on campus, so long as they can meet state requirements to establish 6 feet of space between all students.
Here are some of the responses from officials in Curry and Roosevelt counties:
• Clovis Municipal Schools had previously announced a three-cohort system, with Cohort A on campus Monday and Tuesday, Cohort B on campus Thursday and Friday, Cohort C online only and campuses deep cleaned every Wednesday.
Superintendent Renee Russ said family surveys available on the district website will help guide the process.
“The info from the surveys,” Russ said, “is going to be important in allowing us to determine the demand for online-only participation and to adjust staffing accordingly.
“We are also assessing all available and unused space across district facilities to determine if we might be able to help families by providing a place for students to attend on their ‘virtual’ attendance days. This will take an extraordinary amount of coordination, but we understand the bind parents are in because of the limitations placed on us all by reopening under the mandated hybrid model and we want to help if we can.”
• Portales Municipal Schools is looking at separating grades 5-12 into cohorts similar to Clovis, but Superintendent Johnnie Cain is still looking at when to have a day for cleaning and online-only instruction.
“We’re trying to think of what day works best. If it’s in the middle of the week. That might be tough for childcare, and I’ve got teachers who might need childcare.”
For grades K-4, Cain thinks the district will be able to maintain social distancing because elementary schools largely keep students in the same rooms all day and a big risk with higher grades is changing classrooms for their more varied schedules.
An online-only component will be available, but Cain noted it will have to feature lengthy instruction and not just 25 minutes a day.
“We’ve got to have that rigor and try to get back to school, even if they’re only online,” Cain said. “There will be expectation for those kids at home. Also, we want to make sure parents comfortable sending their kids to school have that opportunity.”
• Melrose Schools might have to use areas it normally wouldn’t for classrooms like the commons area and the gymnasiums.
“We’re going to start measuring all of our spaces this week,” Melrose Superintendent Brian Stacy said. “In my mind, we can do the 6-foot distancing thing and have room. But first I have to measure my facilities to make sure we can do this.”
The district will have face shields for staff and masks for kids that may not be able to afford them, but notes teachers need to be teaching and not “redundantly telling kids to put their masks back on or quit playing with them.”
• At Floyd, Terry believes the district will be able to have its entire population attend in-person while staying within state guidelines, but he notes he won’t be certain about many things until the school board meets.
“We’re looking at our square footing,” said Terry, who also is looking at both of his gyms as classrooms. “We’re doing everything we can to meet the requirements of a hybrid plan while serving as many kids as we can with traditional school hours.”
• Grady Superintendent Elnabeth Grau said with some work, the population of about 182 K-12 students should be able to return in person.
“We can meet the social distancing requirements,” Grau said, assuming conditions remain as they are now. “Our classroom sizes are going to be large enough. We’re stripping the classrooms to bare essentials, removing bookcases and other furniture so we can have that room for desks.”
The district will have to adjust lunch schedules, and an additional bus route is also likely.
• Elida Superintendent Tandee Delk said the district sent out a survey in early May, and 90% of respondents wanted normal school if possible. She thinks that can happen, but the district may have to use its high school and elementary libraries as classrooms.
“We are able to reopen and bring all of our kids back,” Delk said. “We will have the option of a (virtual) platform, but students can return to campus based off of the reopening guidelines.”