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Superintendent outlines return-to-school procedures

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III will host a Facebook Live at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 on the division’s Facebook page to answer questions about students returning to school.

The Suffolk School Board voted 4-2 at its Feb. 11 meeting to allow pre-K through fifth-grade students to return to school for in-person learning two days per week beginning March 15 and sixth through 12th-grade students to return for in-person learning two days per week beginning March 22. The remaining three days of the week would still be for virtual learning. Students in specialized programs will go to school in-person four days per week beginning March 15.

Gordon sent a letter to families Feb. 12 about the division’s Educate and Innovate learning plan to begin face-to-face learning in a hybrid format for students.

Only those who have chosen to return to school in a hybrid format will be returning to school. All others will continue with virtual learning.

However, families will still have the option to choose whether to remain in virtual learning or return to school in the hybrid format.

The division sent families links to a survey Feb. 16 on whether they wanted to change their previously selected learning format. Those who do not receive the link, or would rather have a hard copy of the survey to send in, should contact their child’s school directly.

Parents who have not, and do not complete the form will default to the hybrid format. However, those who have already completed the fall survey and do not wish to change their preference do not need to complete the new survey.

Those who choose to have their child attend in a hybrid format will have to complete a parent acknowledgment form, which must be returned to school before their child will be allowed to return. That form was sent out along with the new survey, and is also on the division’s website.

Seventh-grade students returning for face-to-face instruction must have a TDAP record on file or proof of a medical or religious exemption before coming to school. If they cannot get that vaccine before March 22, they will need to stay in virtual learning. Parents are asked to contact their child’s school nurse if they need to have medication during the school day.

Those remaining virtual will continue to log in daily, Monday through Thursday for live instruction, with Friday being an independent virtual learning day.

Elementary hybrid students will get two days of in-person instruction and three days of independent learning through the Canvas platform, while secondary hybrid students will receive two days of in-person instruction and two days of virtual instruction. Secondary students will receive direct instruction twice per week per course — one day face-to-face and one day virtual.

Gordon noted that the division has three hybrid instructional models for secondary students — Hybrid 45, Hybrid Flipped and Hybrid Sync.

In Hybrid 45, teachers will instruct in-person students for 45 minutes and then teach virtual students for the remainder of the period. In Hybrid Flipped, teachers will provide recorded, direct instruction and activities before the class meets, with live instruction including “applied, collaborative practice with hybrid and virtual students in small groups.” Hybrid Sync will have teachers instruct both virtual and in-person students at the same time using available technologies, with teachers monitoring and responding to both sets of students during the period.

Students will be divided into three groups — one group that will attend in person on Mondays and Wednesdays, another group attending in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then the third group who will remain in virtual learning.

Gordon said the hours of operation for the entire school division would be re-adjusted for the needs of students and the school community.

College and Career Academy at Pruden students will attend their home school once per week, and attend CCAP twice per week on an A or B odd/even schedule.

The division will continue to partner with AlphaBEST and Parks and Recreation to provide childcare for the asynchronous days students are in the hybrid format. Both will open before and after school programs when students return to school.

Staff members using AlphaBEST need to update their childcare plans with AlphaBEST Feb. 22 through Feb. 26 and will have to pay for their before and after school care on days their child is in school.

Parks and Recreation will provide before and after school care at Booker T. Washington, Creekside, Mack Benn Jr., Oakland and Northern Shores elementary schools and King’s Fork Middle School.

Students will be allowed to use playground equipment as long as they are wearing a mask and practice social distancing, and will be expected to wash their hands right after recess.

The school administrative offices will resume its normal operating hours March 8, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday.

Gordon said the division would continue to focus on the safety of staff and students and “continue to implement prevention and protection strategies to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”