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School District Hopes To Offer Free COVID-19 Testing For District Staff, Families

Schools Superintendent John Ravally answered parents’ questions about school reopening during a teleconference on Aug. 4. (File photo.)

Free coronavirus testing for school district staff, students and their families is in the planning stages, and could be offered by the end of the month.

That was one of the nuggets of information provided by schools Superintendent John Ravally August 4 during a teleconference “Town Hall” held to answer questions about the re-opening of schools this September.

Ravally said the district is working with township officials on providing the testing.

Among the other topics touched on in the 90-minute question and answer session were:

  • Social distancing on buses
  • When students will be notified of which “team” they are on for the hybrid learning program.
  • Grading
  • Extra-curricular activities

As for the free coronavirus testing, Ravally said preliminary plans are to use two schools on August 21 and 22 for staff testing, and then two schools each day from August 23-25 for testing district families.

“Testing is not mandatory, but we do believe that it would be a good practice for the opening of school,” Ravally said.

The district late last month unveiled its re-opening plan, based on guidance from the state Department of Education and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a nutshell, the plan calls for dividing the student population into two “teams” – blue and gold – and have one team in schools for four days during a week while the other team learns remotely.

Fridays would be for thorough cleaning of the schools, and then the two teams reverse learning modes the following Monday.

Students will learn what team they’re on “in the next three weeks,” Ravally said.

“The process is labor-intensive because we are attempting to keep students in the same family in the same cohort,” he said.

Parents are able to request total distance learning for their students; more than 600 students have already opted for that. Parents can request this option until Aug. 15 through a form on the district web site. After that, parents can contact their child’s building principal to request the option.

Parents whose students are in the full remote option, who want to switch to the hybrid program, can do so by writing to the school principal, Ravally said. That process can take up to 30 days, he said.

For those students participating in the hybrid program, parents and guardians would be asked to pre-screen their students each morning before they go to the school bus stop, then report the results of that screening on a district software platform. Students will also have their temperatures checked as they enter school buildings.

There will be a maximum of 14 students on a bus, and they will separate by seats and rows, Ravally said.

Ravally said the district will stick with the grading system it has been using, for both remote- and in-person learning.

“We intend on aligning our grading policy in the hybrid model to what we normally do,” Ravally said. “Any changes to the grading policy, if and when they become necessary, will be communicated at the start of the school year.”

Students will be given assigned seating for lunch periods, so that they sit in teh same place every day they have lunch, Ravally said.

He said the school would use their cafeterias, while the larger schools, such as the high school, would use several different spaces.

“The first lunch might happen in a section of the gym, and the second lunch might be in the cafeteria and the third lunch might be in the auditorium,” Ravally said. “We’re working on providing a student a seat, and they would utilize that seat, and they would be the only one utilizing that seat for the four days they are in school. Then on Friday everything gets a deep cleaning.”

Remote students would receive breakfast and lunch in bulk, at four schools and 31 bus stops, as teh district did at the end of last school year.

Students who are remote-learning will be able to participate in athletics, Ravally said. He said the students would have to be transported by parents to practice, but the district would handle transportation to games.

After-school club meetings would be held virtually for remote-learners, Ravally said, although in-person learners could jump into the meetings if they get home from school in time.

The district is compiling questions and answers in a FAQ, which is posted on the Board of Education’s web site.

Families will be contacted by their student’s building principal for last-minute information prior to the opening of school, Ravally said.

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