ELLSWORTH — As plans for the start of the school year begin to trickle in around the area, Ellsworth plans on having full in-person learning for all grades.
The return-to-school plan was devised by district staff and sent to the Pierce County Public Health Department for guidance. Ultimately, it was determined that the district can safely have students return to school at full capacity.
“What we’re doing here in Ellsworth is similar to what other districts are doing with their schools,” Superintendent Barry Cain said.
Below is a primer on what families can expect this fall.
What exactly will a full return to school look like?
The plan is to hold in-person learning five days a week with a Sept. 1 start date. There will be an interim session Aug. 25-27 for students to get back in the swing of things and review last year’s studies. Students will have an option to learn virtually if they choose, but at this point the hope is to have all students in the building.
How will virtual learning be conducted?
Via Google Classroom. The district invested in Chromebooks over the summer and now has the capability for each student to have a device. Details on when and how students will receive their Chromebooks is yet to be finalized, but Cain said the plan is to get students their individual device as soon as possible so they can participate in virtual learning at any point in time.
How will students get to school?
The largest rural district relies heavily on busing and transportation will be conducted essentially as normal. Cain said social distancing on buses will not be a realistic option, but there will be tweaks to the routine. For example, students will have assigned seats and will be required to sit with siblings if applicable. Face coverings will also be required for everyone on the bus.
Once inside the school, what safety precautions are in place?
Many. Drinking fountains will not be available for use, face coverings are required for all students and staff when they are within six feet of another person. Sanitation stations have been installed throughout the school and volunteers and visitors will not be allowed to enter the building.
Additional custodians are also set to be hired to ensure daily cleaning throughout the schools.
What happens if someone shows COVID-related symptoms?
There will be a second health room added in every building. The new health room will be strictly used for students and staff displaying COVID-related symptoms. The other health room will be for non-COVID cases such as medication dispersals or cuts and scrapes. Additional health aides will be hired by the district.
If students or staffs show symptoms, they will be placed in an isolated room and be sent home as soon as possible. Once home, they will need to wait 72 hours after any COVID-related symptoms subside before they will be able to come back inside school buildings.
Will classes be conducted like normal?
Yes and no. The curriculum will remain the same and students will still have access to the full course offerings. The biggest change will be limiting interactions between peers.
For example, elementary students will remain with their class throughout the day. Recess hours will likely be staggered, and when multiple classes have recess at the same time, they will be "cohorted."
Backpacks will now be allowed inside the classroom. The idea behind that is to limit the need for students to travel back and forth from lockers.
Any other changes at the schools?
Elementary students will eat inside their classrooms. Older grades will eat in the lunchroom but will enter and exit the room in small groups to prevent large gatherings.
Cain said the important takeaway for families is that face coverings will be mandatory for everyone inside the school or on a bus and that the education plan could change at a moment's notice.
“There's a lot still being worked on — all the details at each building level,” Cain said. “We’re going to be communicating like crazy with everyone about what it looks like at each individual building.”