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UPDATE: Re-Entry Task Force Meeting 5

Thursday, June 25, 2020

After four weeks analyzing key factors for reopening schools safely in the fall, Task Force members met with District leaders to begin developing specific recommendations for our S.A.F.E. re-entry plan. The group received an update on the week of re-entry listening sessions, which were seen by more than 50,000 people, and discussed preliminary results of the re-entry survey, which was completed by over 15,000 families. All input received will be factored into the Task Force's final recommendations.

The group revisited planning considerations from the past month and re-ranked their goals and priorities for the reopening of schools, as illustrated in the charts below.

All districts in the state are required to submit their full re-entry plans (or continuous learning models) to the Tennessee Department of Education for approval, so recommendations will be finalized in the coming weeks with a goal of presenting a state-approved plan to families, staff and the community by mid-July.

UPDATE: Re-Entry Task Force Meeting 4

Thursday, June 18, 2020

  • Topics of focus for this meeting centered on matters related to the return to work for employees and supports for students with disabilities and English Learners.
  • Members reviewed the latest health stats and were mindful that COVID-19 cases in Shelby County are currently increasing. They want to ensure reliable testing protocols are in place to ensure a safe opening and continuous operations, including the possibility of testing for all staff who may come into contact with students.
  • The group urged District leaders to continue providing opportunities for parent voice throughout the re-entry planning process.
  • HR staff presented planning priorities associated with the return of 11-month and 12-month employees beginning in early July, including:
    • Modifications to support the well-being of staff, including physical distancing and other workplace safety/support protocols
    • Availability of COVID-19 testing for employees
    • Accommodations for employees deemed high-risk due to personal health conditions
    • Addressing non-compliance with safety standards and job requirements
  • Task Force members learned about re-entry considerations that address the District's OSHA compliance requirement to maintain a “workplace that is free from recognized hazards," including:
    • Temperature screenings throughout the day for employees and visitors
    • Social distancing techniques, such as staggered shifts, workspace reorganization, virtual meetings and limiting visitor volume
    • Offering OSHA-approved personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Adhering to the guidance of health officials
    • Additional cleaning measures and appropriate engineering/ventilation controls for indoor air quality
    • Adopting a flexible work-from-home policy and encouraging employees to stay home when they’re sick
  • The group discussed the need for special accommodations for employees with disabilities or who are deemed high-risk due to medical conditions, which may include additional social-distancing measures in the workplace or a work-from-home arrangement. They discussed the possibility of special placements, such as virtual instruction, to accommodate teachers with identified ailments.
  • Members were assured that the District will continue to adhere to Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requirements and other federal health standards for employee leave eligibility due to factors associated with COVID-19.
  • Additional employee related discussion topics included:
    • The need for controls and supports for teachers who identify a sick student in their classroom
    • The creation of an email or hotline specifically for employee-related COVID-19 matters
    • Having a process for employees to report non-compliance with health and safety protocols
    • Consideration for revised evaluation requirements (with approval from the state)
  • The Task Force learned about efforts to support the District's 13,000 students with disabilities and 11,000 English Learners. Staff assured members that instructional supports, including live teacher-led instruction, could continue for both groups in an in-person and/or virtual setting.
  • The Department of Exceptional Children provided the following updates:
    • More than 4,700 virtual IEP meetings were held during the closure.
    • IEP meetings and related services, such as nursing services and occupational/physical/speech and language therapy, will not be limited by in-person and/or virtual instruction.
    • Social distancing may be limited in cases where students require physical assistance for a disability or behavioral need.
    • Special education teachers and general education teachers will collaborate to ensure appropriate accommodations and modifications are provided for students with disabilities during in-person and/or virtual instruction.
    • Technology will be tailored to support students' academic and social/emotional needs.
    • Parent support will include special training for virtual learning platforms and weekly meetings with Exceptional Children staff.
  • The English as a Second Language Department provided the following updates:
    • Multilingual support is being provided by multiple teams, including the Parent Welcome Center, S.E.E.D., Family & Community Engagement, Student Affairs and Communications.
    • Free online Rosetta Stone language software was provided to families for home learning during the closure.
    • Parent support will include special training for virtual learning platforms and weekly meetings with ESL staff.
  • The next Re-Entry Task Force Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 25. Members were surveyed on a variety of topics at the close of this week's meeting. That input will be used to develop District recommendations during next week's meeting, when they'll be joined by Superintendent Ray and other SCS leaders.

UPDATE: Re-Entry Task Force Meeting 3

Thursday, June 11, 2020

  • The focus of meeting 3 included a review of CDC updates, efforts to proactively engage parents for the 2020-21 school year, preparing principals to lead schools under post COVID-19 guidelines and considerations for educating the whole child through social emotional learning supports.
  • The group discussed a range of re-entry considerations for safely and effectively reopening schools, including:
    • Requiring social distancing at all times, including the arrangement of desks, tables, etc.
    • Encouraging the use of masks for as many people as possible
    • Conducting daily disinfection of all surfaces
    • Ensuring that any at-risk individuals (teachers, students, staff) avoid in-person school attendance
    • Minimizing the sharing of objects as much as possible
    • Limiting the use of communal spaces as much as possible (cafeteria, playgrounds, gyms, etc.)
    • Organizing student cohorts with each class treated as an independent group to minimize interaction and better allow for isolation if a positive case is detected
    • Limiting groups for outdoor activities to 50 or less
  • Dr. Manul Jain, an infectious disease expert, updated task force members on the latest COVID-19 statistics as part of a discussion on health testing considerations, which included:
    • Temperature checks for all individuals
    • Proactive baseline testing for teachers and ongoing testing at regular intervals
    • Targeted proactive testing made available for children in high-risk zip codes
    • Planning for as many as 30 teachers and 300 students to be positive at any given time based on the 0.3% positive rate for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases shared by health officials
  • The group encouraged collaboration with the Shelby County Health Department and City and County government when it comes to response and treatment of positive cases, isolation and tracing of contacts and costs associated with testing, tracing and other proactive health and safety measures.
  • Members expressed concerns about the social emotional supports that will be available to students, teachers and staff when schools reopen, including:
    • A need for additional support specifically for teachers so they can help students, as well as manage their own stress
    • Ensuring that all schools have nurses and health professionals available to support teachers and students, including the possible use of nursing students
    • Identifying churches, businesses and community organizations than can provide support
    • Ensuring mental health support staff are available at every school
  • Members have made it clear through the first three meetings that communication and parent engagement are critical to the re-entry plan. They received updates on multiple proactive engagement efforts planned for families this summer, including:
    • Capturing parent input on school reopening through a districtwide survey, a series of listening sessions and from the District's parent ambassadors
    • Summer virtual parent institute with supports and resources for digital/distance learning at all grade levels
    • Technology support hotline to help parents with at-home technology challenges and support district-issued devices
    • Continual efforts to connect SCS families to available community-based supports and resources
  • The next meeting of the Re-Entry Task Force will take place Thursday, June 18. Topics will include:
    • Considerations for ESL and Exceptional Children
    • Instructional calendar considerations
    • Considerations for Extended Learning Opportunities & Programs (ELOP)
    • Re-entry factors related to Human Resources
    • Work session focused on crafting re-entry recommendations

UPDATE: Re-Entry Task Force Meeting 2

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Man talking in front of people sitting at tables with their laptops
  • Members reviewed COVID-19 trend data for Shelby County and discussed the need for having multiple contingencies in case of another surge that disrupts planned operations.
  • Recovering lost instructional time was a continued area of priority, as members discussed the need for heavy focus on foundational skills when students return. The group also considered options that would allow for more ongoing student support, such as extending school days and the school year.
  • The Task Force talked about the need for increasing training access for teachers and parents around any digital platforms and curriculum that may be implemented. This includes establishing community-based locations that can provide support for students and families.
  • Members talked about the use of CARES Act funds, which involved the District's proposed plans to use 75% for digital devices, 15% for student support and interventions and 10% for health and safety measures.
  • The group reviewed potential impacts of social distancing on transportation planning efforts, with considerations for staggered ridership schedules and limited capacity on buses.
  • As much as core instruction continues to be a focus, members want to ensure fine arts, health, PE, wellness and electives are available during the school day, in addition to providing access to athletics and other extracurricular activities. The District’s athletics task force is currently working to finalize guidelines for safe summer practices and activities in advance of the fall sports season. 
  • The next Re-Entry Task Force meeting will take place Thursday, June 11. Key topics of discussion include family and community engagement and "whole child" supports that will be provided for students in 2020-21.

UPDATE: Re-Entry Task Force Meeting 1

Thursday, May 28, 2020

    Man talking in front of people sitting at tables with their laptops
  • Members discussed essential administrative aspects, such as meeting norms, meeting schedule and District demographics, before moving into strategic planning considerations.
  • Members heard an update from the SCS Facilities team on response efforts since schools closed in March, including deep cleaning at all SCS sites, PPE usage and social distancing guidelines for essential workers and safeguarding buildings with controlled and scheduled access.
  • Some of the key topics that emerged from members' initial conversations are listed below. These topics and others will drive strategic planning discussions in the weeks ahead.
    • Establishing a proactive health screening process for students
    • Identifying underlying health issues of students and staff
    • Providing adequate supplies of PPEs, thermometers, and essential screening supplies for schools
    • Responding to changing community health circumstances
    • Ensuring compliance with re-entry protocols
    • Refined oversight of cleaning procedures
    • Food safety
    • Bus safety
    • Ongoing progress to improve digital access/training for students, families and staff
    • Ensuring access to extracurricular activities
    • Enhanced wrap-around services for families, including childcare accommodations for students who cannot attend school due to illness
    • Identifying and adhering to the rights of students, families and staff regarding health and safety
    • Plans for consistent communication to families and staff
  • The next meeting will take place on Thursday, June 4. Discussion topics will include:
    • Potential impact of social distancing requirements
    • School day considerations (tutoring, clubs, activities, etc.)
    • Fiscal challenges
    • Risk management
    • Equity
    • Transportation
    • Social emotional support