BIDWELL — As parents, students, and educators prepare for the coming school year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, River Valley High School (RVHS) hopes to give an in-person experience.
“Right now, the district is planning on being open face-to-face five days a week,” T.R. Edwards, the principal at RVHS, said.
According to Edwards, the current plan for the school year gives students two options: either fully remote or in-person education. For the in-person option, the district plans for buildings to be open to all students five days a week. Depending on how the public health situation changes, the district may choose to change in-person instruction to a “2-2 split,” where half of the students will attend in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half will attend in-person on Thursdays and Fridays. The remainder of the week would be spent remotely.
“Some people thought if they came to school, they could choose to either do five days, two days,” Edwards said. “That’s not the student’s choice. The district will choose to move to one of those things as they move along.”
The district might also elect for completely remote education.
“We’ve had conversations…for opportunities for teachers to load everything through Google classroom…to incorporate that more highly into their instruction for the first couple of weeks so that students are more used to access things electronically and teaching them how to be ready in case they have to go full-time (remote),” Edwards said.
“What we’re doing this year even if we end up full remote is going to look different than what March, April, and May looked like last year,” he said. “There will be due dates and assignments and things like that. I think we have better structure now to make sure that students are able to receive their work and materials and get support.”
This summer, River Valley offered virtual summer school, which allowed teachers to experience different methods and better see how online education functions. Students were also able to give feedback to help teachers refine their skills.
Internet accessibility is a huge cause of concern for remote classes, though Edwards is conscious of it.
“We continuously try to keep in our mind the accessibility to internet and connectivity is not equitable across our area, so trying to find solutions to that if students aren’t able to access something, finding ways that we can get that information to them,” Edwards said. “Not not allowing them to have access wouldn’t be an option, so working with families and saying here are some locations you could get connectivity or making sure that they have some sort of electronic version of that.”
Students who opt for the remote option will take classes through the Southern Ohio Digital Academy (SODA), a completely online program that has been part of Gallia County Local Schools for several years now but has been expanded for elementary students for the first time this year.
In-person, River Valley High School will not be able to observe social distance.
“With all the students in that five-day,” Edwards said, “we can’t social distance in classrooms or hallways and things like that to give that six-foot distance. In the classroom, most classes, you can’t space out six feet apart.”
According to the CDC’s website, “Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease.”
Social distancing will not be observed on buses, either. According to Edwards, the existing bus routes permit two riders per seat. Buses will follow cleaning protocols and be cleaned between after routes.
The CDC recommends that individuals observe a six-feet social distance in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Edwards said that the school is changing its schedule to promote less contact, like giving students more time to switch between classes and dismissing classes in waves. The school will also observe a block schedule, wherein half of the offered classes will be offered each day on an alternating schedule. Lunches will observe social distance, though, and Edwards said that different parts of the school, including the outdoor courtyard, will be utilized to space apart students.
Edwards hopes the school will abide by strict cleaning protocols.
“We want to make the building as safe as we can for everyone involved,” he said.
Gallia County Local Schools purchased a Clorox 360 machine for every building, which according to Edwards puts out a cleaning solution of electrically charged particles that clings to surfaces and disinfects beyond the initial application and continues to disinfect over a period of time. The machines will be used on a regular basis.
All students will be required to wear masks as mandated by the state of Ohio. The Gallia County Local Schools District will provide all students with two reusable masks with three layers of protection. Students can wear masks they have purchased if they provide equitable protection.
Some aspects of in-person schooling are still being planned, like P.E. classes. Contact sports “are kind of in limbo,” Edwards said.
A condensed version of River Valley’s reopening plan can be found on the school’s website.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.