COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
As Columbia Public Schools’ Elementary teachers are preparing their classrooms for in-person, parents are preparing their children for the new normal before returning to school on Monday, Oct. 19th for the first in over six months.
CPS PreK-5 classrooms will soon be full of students, as the Board of Education approved the return to in-person four-day week learning on Monday, Oct. 5th.
The district sent an email to parents on Wednesday detailing re-entry plans and protocols reminding families of what to expect come Monday.
Students will return to school buildings on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday beginning Monday, October 19th.
Wednesday will be used for cleaning and sanitizing the buildings as well as training for teachers.
Michelle Baumstark, CPS spokeswoman said the next several days are crucial for the district as teachers are working to switch their classroom setups from virtual to in-person.
Baumstark said teachers are trying to create as much space as possible within their classrooms, cleaning supplies are being made available in each classroom and cleaning protocols with schools are being reviewed.
The email states that students will be expected to wear masks and sent parent’s a link to review for handwashing and masking wearing expectations.
Mary Earnhart, a CPS parent said her family is working on her son putting on a mask more frequently because he wasn’t wearing one throughout the day learning from home.
“He can kind of start getting used to wearing it and not getting frustrated that the teachers are asking that of him,” said Earnhart.
Earnhart said another battle may be getting an actual morning routine down in just a few days.
“He wasn't having to even be on the computer until eight in the morning,” said Earnhart. “And now he's gonna have to be on the bus at like 6:20 in the morning. So there's that too.”
How students will get to and from school was something the district asked families to provide over the summer.
CPS took those responses and made bus routes to fit the needs of families and students. CPS asked in the email for families who need to make a change or have yet to be assigned a bus stop to contact their child’s school.
In the email, the district stated that while the district is providing transportation to eligible riders, CPS does encourage families to provide their own transportation if possible.
CPS said that would reduce the number of students riding the buses as social distancing will likely not be possible.
Aaron Zuidema, another CPS parent said his children will still go on the bus despite the possible lack of social distancing.
“As long as other precautions are... being followed,” Zuidema said. “I'm fine with that. To me, what's more important is... for my, my child's psychological and social well-being is just to get back into normal or whatever the new normal routines will be.”
Just as students are expected to wear masks in school, the same goes for buses.
The class that students are in are considered stable groups. The district explained that students will remain with their stable group during the day and during recess time.
“I think that that's probably the smartest move for them to make at this point,” Earnhart said. Just... if anything does happen, if anything comes up then they aren't going to have to shut the entire school down they will just be able to shut down the areas in which you know that particular student or teacher was located.”
While Zuidema said even though he would like for things in classrooms to return to the way it was before COVID-19, he believes it will be a progression and it will be some time before we can feel comfortable doing that.
When it comes to when school begins and ends, not all CPS elementary schools have the same start and end times.
The district provided a link where parents can see what time their children's school starts.
The guidance states that students will eat meals in their classrooms, but accommodations will be made if your child has a food allergy.
And Grab-and-Go routes will still be delivered to virtual students and those in-person students on Wednesday’s.
The email also states that each school will send out instructions on the timeframe or when and how to return supply kit items to school so they can be ready to use in classrooms.
A calendar was made to designate each in-seat instructional day between Oct. 19 and Jan. 15 as an A, B, C, or D day for special classes, such as physical education, media, music, and art.
The email states that this plan ensures that all elementary specials will be taught by a qualified specialist and reduces the number of students a specialist will see over a 14-day period.
Overall Zuidema said he believes this is a great first step in a journey CPS needs to continue to make.
“We need to get kids back in school and we need to get them back to... a normal way of life as possible,” said Zuidema.
While Earnhart said her son is excited to finally meet his teacher in-person and see his friends again.
“He's been bugging me for forever about getting to see his friends,” Earnhart said. So he's absolutely ecstatic about it.”
The district states that if you want to change which learning method, online or in-person, you chose for your child you should contact your child's school and then you will be put on a waiting list.
It’s possible your learning method may change if space is available, but changes will not be immediate.
Also, the email states that if you are requesting to move from virtual to in-person, space may not be available at your home school building.