The back-to-class strategy for Grand Forks Public Schools is 22 pages long, but most who seek it will quickly scan to a few notable bullet points.
Specifically, parents and others want to know district protocols for when a child gets sick or has been around someone who has been sick. And what about the children who won’t be returning to class amid coronavirus concerns?
Tuesday, the Grand Forks School Board was presented with the extensive plan, and those important segments were thorough. Credit goes to the district for laying out strategies for the many potential scenarios.
Notably, Grand Forks families have the option to participate in distance learning – i.e. remote instruction – this year.
That’s vital for the parents who have reservations about sending their children to school as the pandemic continues. Cases have increased in recent weeks, creating an atmosphere of uneasiness just as kids and school employees head back to the classrooms that were abandoned amid the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a survey sent this summer to parents, 8% of respondents said they do not intend to send their child back to school. Considering that 3,346 responded to the survey, it could mean at least 268 children won’t return this fall. The number could be exponentially higher, since many respondents have more than one child and the district has some 7,300 students overall. Also, the question was asked three weeks before the district’s plan was unveiled, so it’s possible some parents who hedged on the answer may not be comfortable with the protocols now that they’ve seen them.
It’s important to have reasonable district-sponsored options for those children. Keeping these students in a “classroom” – even if it is via the internet – means the district will keep the aid dollars that are attached to them. If they are schooled at home without remote learning options via the district, the dollars disappear.
It’s also important the district is ready to pivot to distance learning by providing licensed teachers and paraprofessional support to students working remotely. But after Tuesday’s meeting, there weren’t yet many specifics on how this can be done, the burden on teachers and whether there is enough staff to fill the gaps. Thursday, Superintendent Terry Brenner told the Herald that the costs associated with it could add up to $4 million.
Also Tuesday, the district outlined protocols that address numerous potential scenarios for children – and parents – who are sick or who have been around someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19.
For example, students who are healthy but have a family member who tested positive will be isolated outside of school. A student who appears to have COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately isolated from others. And a student confirmed to have the illness will be excluded from school for 10 days after the onset of symptoms.
There are various other combinations of scenarios included, too. The protocols also go through various, similar, scenarios for school employees.
Monday’s board meeting hopefully will answer many remaining questions. But the strategy released Tuesday has so far helped focus the district’s response to a historic quandary.