By Crystal Burns
In meetings held July 27 and 28, three local school district boards agreed to push back the start dates of their respective school years.
The Bradford Special School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved changes to the 2020-21 school calendar at its July 27 meeting.
Instead of returning to school on Friday, July 31, students will begin the fall semester Monday, Aug. 10. All students in grades 4-12 will be required to wear face masks unless they are able to social distance. Face masks are recommended but not required for students in grades K-3. All students must wear face masks on school buses.
Director of Schools Dan Black said all school personnel would also be required to wear face masks or face shields in the buildings.
Black said the rationale for postponing the start of school is to give teachers more time to prepare for the virtual learning component. If the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the area drops the district to Level 1, all learning will take place online through the district’s digital learning platform.
At Level 2, K-12 classes will attend school on an alternating A/B schedule. Parents will be given their student’s A/B assignments on the first week of school.
At Levels 3 and 4, classes will be offered in the traditional classroom setting.
The district is offering virtual learning to those students who choose that option.
“I’ve talked to our administrative people, and all of them feel like the extra five days to get school open is going to be beneficial to our teachers for what we’re asking them to do,” Black said. “This year is going to be more difficult for teachers. They’re going to do a lot more as well as everybody in education is.”
Pre-school students will start Aug. 10 on a staggered schedule. Teachers will contact parents with the schedule.
The deadline to sign up for virtual learning is Tuesday, Aug. 4 at noon. A link to apply is available on the district website at www.bradfordspecial.com.
Gibson County Special School District
The Gibson County Special School District Board of Trustees approved a new school calendar that pushes the start of the fall semester to Monday, Aug. 17.
The board held a special called meeting July 27 at Gibson County High School. Director of Schools Eddie Pruett provided members with several options for revising the school calendars to give teachers an extra two weeks to prepare for the virtual learning component of the new school year.
Pruett recommended the board approve cutting fall break from five days to two days but leaving spring break intact at five days. The board asked to use an additional stockpile day to be able to dismiss school for the Strawberry Festival in May instead of axing it from the schedule. School will dismiss for the 2020-21 year on May 21.
Pruett said he moved some professional development days from the calendar and “frontloaded” them for the first two weeks in August to give teachers more time to work on the Learning Management System, which is new and crucial for the district’s virtual learning academy.
Detailed re-opening plans are available online at www.gcssd.org.
Trenton Special School District
The Trenton Special School District board unanimously agreed to adjust the fall semester start date from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10, giving teachers more time to prepare for virtual instruction.
“This additional week, which will be an additional professional development week for all of our staff, will be designed to give us more time to work through the virtual instruction that we are providing students that choose to learn from home,” Michele Elliott, supervisor of Learning & Teaching, told the board during the July 28 meeting, which was held online via Zoom. “It will give us more time to work through COVID practices and procedures.”
Elliott said that staff will work Aug. 3-7, and the district will welcome back students on its previously released staggered schedule Aug. 10-14. The week of Aug. 17 will be the first full week of school for all students.
The district has received approval to use stockpile days to provide the extra week of professional development for students, keeping the remainder of the school calendar unchanged, Director of Schools Tim Haney said.
Haney said teachers and administrators are concerned because the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Gibson County is trending upward, and there is no metric the district could use to justify opening school higher than Level 2. At Level 2, some districts are providing in-person and virtual instruction on an alternating schedule, but Haney said with only 12 students at Peabody High School, 54 at Trenton Rosenwald Middle, and 57 at Trenton Elementary enrolled in the district’s virtual option, families want to send their students back to school.
“I did not want to go to a hybrid [schedule] because our virtual requests are so low,” he said. Our people want to come back. Our people seem to want an in-person start.”
Students in grades Pre-k-12 and school personnel will be required to wear face masks.
“We just anticipated a larger virtual application pool that would’ve made distancing easier to accomplish,” Haney said. “If we can’t get the full six feet, we need to cover the mouths and noses.”
Detailed re-opening plans for each school are available online at www.trentonssd.org.