AMITE—Pledging to put the safety of their people first, the Tangipahoa Parish School System on Tuesday announced plans to reopen classrooms for both in-person and online instruction starting August 12.
Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley said district leaders have worked diligently to develop their multi-faceted plan, complete with contingencies based on recovery Phase I, II, or III, to return to campus.
“In our estimation, based on the data available today, we expect to be in Phase II when classes resume on August 12, but we are prepared for any situation from Phase I to Phase III with the implementation of this plan,” Stilley said.
The superintendent said this year’s return to campus represents Tanigpahoa's latest effort to create safe and innovative learning environments for the community.
“In previous years, we have developed plans to prepare our schools for external threats, cyber attacks, and internal challenges. This year, we will consider natural and environmental threats to our campuses, and in doing so, we will remain mindful of our core values as well as our vision statement in creating conducive learning habitats,” Stilley said.
Under the plan presented Tuesday, Tangipahoa teachers report back to work August 6 at their school-based site. Support workers return to service as normal. Students return to class on August 12; however, students will attend a “soft” opening of school with a staggered entry plan for the first few days of school so that teachers can review procedures and routines related to extra precautions. In addition, this soft start will allow time for devices to be assigned to students and the opportunity for teachers to orient students on how to effectively use their devices. More details on the “soft” start will be released to families as soon as possible so they can make arrangements for their students.
“The biggest challenge we are facing with Phase II is our limited, 50 percent maximum transportation capacity,” Stilley said. After considering a number of options, the district has decided to return the youngest students to campus first so those children can have the most in-person instructional time while allowing their caregivers the time they need to return to work.
During Phase II, students in Pre-K to 6th grade will attend classes in-person five days per week, and students in grades 7-12 will operate on a fully virtual instructional plan, although the district is committed to providing those students with times when they can come on campus to ask for help with their classes or simply check-in with their teachers. Those “office hours” will be available at each school by appointment.
Stilley said the goal is to be able to hopefully transition students in grades 7-12 onto campus at some point after Labor Day.
“As we gain transportation capacity, we will be able to offer in-person instruction for our older students, probably adding a grade level or two at a time, if at all possible,” Stilley said.
Regardless of the recovery phase, Tangipahoa is committed to maintaining static groupings for young students while older students will be held to the six-foot distancing standard during transition times. Schools will assess students on arrival and throughout the day, including temperature checks. Students who are/become sick will be isolated from their peers until a family member can check them out. Cleaning and disinfecting will be ongoing throughout the day and frequent hand washing will be part of the daily routine, and anyone on campus who is in the 3rd grade or older will be asked to wear face coverings, as able to the maximum extent possible during transition and in common areas of the school, Stilley said. All school work will be for a grade and not considered optional, regardless of the recovery period phase.
Once Tangipahoa reaches Phase III, the maximum group size will be 50, including adults, and up to 75 percent capacity will be allowed on school buses. Students in PreK thru 8th grade can attend school 5 days per week, if families so choose. Students in Grades 9-12 will follow a blended instructional model, attending school two days a week on an A/B schedule at a minimum. Schools will continue to follow all CDC-recommended safety precautions. Band and vocal music programs will resume in Phase III with physical distance recommendations in place.
The district will limit access to campuses, and all visitors will be asked to wash or sanitize their hands prior to entering. At this time, field trips will be discontinued. Athletics are only allowed to resume in accordance with all recommendations and guidelines from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
In addition, Stilley encouraged families to secure face coverings for their students in grades 3-12. She said uniforms will be required when students are on campus. School supply lists for students are now available on each school’s website, and she encouraged families to secure those materials now so that students have their supplies regardless of the learning model they utilize.
Families continue to have the option to choose virtual or blended learning models regardless of the reopening phase we are operating. More information about learning model options can be found on our website. Students will be issued a laptop and will have access to high quality instruction at no charge.
The district will be conducting instructional diagnostics for every student to determine strengths and weaknesses in grade level understanding. Those results will be communicated to every child’s family and plans will be made to help bridge any gaps in learning.
Stilley said the district is finalizing transportation and school food service plans, and that information will be relayed to families in the next few days. She encouraged families who are able to drive their students to and from school to do so during this time. She said free breakfast and lunch will be served to students at school per state and federal guidelines.
The district will announce parish wide plans on their website, TangiSchools.org, as well as on social media and in the TPSS newsletter. School-based sites will offer more specific information related to grade-level and community needs. Families can also submit any individual questions to the district information desk by emailing [email protected]
She encouraged all families to stay tuned to these TPSS sites for the most accurate information on their student’s campus.
“Like everything else that’s happened in the last five months, these plans are subject to change,” Stilley said. “What will not change is our commitment to keeping our people safe. From our littlest student to our most senior staff member, everyone matters in our Tangipahoa Parish School community, and moving forward, we will be relying on these safety practices, coupled with our core values of being respectful of our community’s needs, compassionate to those who are anxious during these trying times, and doing all we can to make the 2020-21 school year GREAT for every single person we reach in our district.”
The detailed Return to School Plan will be posted on the TangiSchools.org website later this week, Stilley said.