Reopening schools: ZCS’s plans to safely start the academic year

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Zionsville Community Schools has released a guide to start the academic year that outlines mitigation efforts at its schools to protect students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ZCS schools will open for in-person classes Aug. 4. Remote learning options will be offered to students who will not return for in-person classes.

Remote learning will at times be synchronized with in-person classes, ZCS officials said. By way of a video conference, for example, teachers will guide both in-class students and remote learning students through lessons at the same time. At other times, remote learning students will be able to work at their own pace online. Parents with children enrolled in grades K-4 must commit to the remote learning program for nine weeks before being allowed to enroll their children in in-person classes. Parents with children in fifth grade and up must commit to a semester of remote learning before they can opt for in-person classes.

“The reason for the difference in length of commitment is due to our youngest learners needing the most direct literacy and numeracy instruction and our older learners having semester long courses, credits, and needing consistency of instruction,” the guide states.

The Eagle Start Guide states masks will be required when indoors and on school buses, a shift from the school system’s prior message only days earlier at a ZCS school board meeting that masks “should be worn” and “are to be worn.” Each bus will seat a maximum of 44 children, ZCS Chief Operations Officer Rebecca Coffman said during a July 7 YouTube Live Q&A.

“As we look at ridership needs, as that information is gathered, there might be some tweaks,” Coffman said.

To enter the schools, students and staff will be required to complete a health screener each day. In addition, the school system will enhance existing cleaning protocols, encourage frequent hand washing and sanitization breaks and work with the Boone County Health Dept. to adjust mitigation efforts as needed.

In addition, ZCS Supt. Scott Robison said he consulted with two doctors, an immunologist, an epidemiologist and an industrial hygienist when deciding what mitigation efforts to implement. Robison said the school system’s decisions were influenced by guidance from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Dept. of Education, the Indiana State Dept. of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a recent school board meeting, Robison shared a letter written to him by the epidemiologist, who was not named. It read, in part, “The most important public health role for schools this fall is to prevent massive outbreaks or ‘super spreaders.’ They explained one of the best ways of preventing such outbreaks would be to sequester students into small groups of between 30 and 100, saying keeping these groups of 30 (or 60, 100, etc.) kids separated from other groups is more important than just about anything else.”

To keep children in the same social bubbles, cafeterias will operate at 50 to 60 percent capacity and utilize assigned seating when possible. Lunches will be held in classrooms or outdoors, when appropriate, to provide additional social distancing. Lunch menus will be limited, and options will consist of a minimum of four pre-packaged cold lunch choices.

Playgrounds will operate at 50 to 60 percent capacity during recess. Students will be encouraged to social distance during recess and will be asked to wash their hands before and after.

The guide states that the school system “will actively monitor the COVID-19 health crisis and adjust our plan as necessary in an effort to keep our students and staff as safe as possible.”

Parents, friends and family of graduating ZCHS students watch as the graduates are called to receive their diplomas at the school’s July 11 in-person ceremony. (Photo by Jarred Meeks)

Back to school

To help incoming high school students acclimate to their new setting, Zionsville Community High School will offer an Eagle Kick Off program July 28 during the school’s registration process.

Student leaders will answer questions and arrange a scavenger hunt for incoming students to help familiarize them with the school.

Back-to-school days will be July 27 and 28 for middle school students and July 31 for elementary school students.

For more, visit zcs.k12.in.us.


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