Multiple new terms have been added to conversations in this time of global change such as, “Mask mandate, social distancing, and Zoom rooms.” The original use of “cohort” to refer to one of ten divisions of an ancient Roman legion was modernized and is now likely to be frequently heard when discussing schools.
In a change from previously published guidance, Monroe County Schools began phasing students into classrooms August 31, 2020 and will extend bringing groups in through Monday, September 14, 2020. An August 27th press release provided the basic plan explained through the office of School Superintendent Theresa Axford. "We made this decision because we think we can do it safely. We also know that parents need us to do this so they can work and support their families, and students need this in order to learn and grow successfully. Virus spread in our community is not at a high level; it has been below 7% for the past ten days, and after consultation with the health
department, we believe as long as we all follow safety guidelines, students and teachers can remain safe and healthy," said Axford. She said she will be continuing to monitor this closely as the date to bring students back approaches.
"This remains a fluid situation and, while we all want this to work smoothly, circumstances could change and we may have to change with those circumstances," she said.
Procedures and practices within schools, to include bus transportation, classroom configuration, meals, and other activities have been adapted to operate in the "moderate exposure" plan from the district's “Guide to Safely Reopening Schools”. Selected students as recommended by school staff and
coordinated with parents were brought in first to allow extra time to learn and become comfortable with the new procedures.
All other students will be gradually phased in beginning Tuesday, September 8, 2020 for their orientation of new procedures. Students in grades PreK-5 will attend traditional five days a week while grades 6-12 will have a mix of part time in school and part time virtual. The combination schedule enables a smaller population within the schools.
Each school plan has been designed based on the physical ability of that particular school facility to incorporate measures such as smaller class sizes, room configuration for social distancing, one-way movement in halls, and extra hand sanitization stations. Understanding “cohorts” is another step. The small groups will be together in class, during recreation activities, and “grab and go” meals eaten in classrooms rather than cafeterias for some schools.
"Social distancing, mask-wearing, handwashing, using cohorts to keep students in the same small groups, cleaning and sanitizing on a
regular basis. These are the things which will keep us all safe, students and teachers alike. We want to do this successfully. We want to be able to continue doing this, but the only way this will work is if we all follow the rules and respect each other when it comes to health and safety," said Axford.
Schools are working with parents about the schedules as well as bus transportation which may operate with modified schedules to accommodate social distancing requirements on the busses.
In the comments posted by parents on the Facebook page, there was a mix of questions and mostly supportive comments. One individual encapsulated a core point for many. “I think this is amazing...giving parents a choice, planning for eventualities, and small classrooms. For those parents who worry they can keep their children at home safely and for those who have to work so a cycle of homelessness and debt can be avoided! I wish it could be easier but I appreciate the information!!!!”
Parents will have until Wednesday, September 30, 2020 to decide if they prefer only virtual learning. Parents may coordinate with their school if they do not wish to engage in the phased-in plan.