2020-2021 Planning Update – 7.31.2020

20-2021 Planning update

Posted for your consideration is the developing draft of our Opening of Schools Plan for the 2020/2021 school year. While there are many details that need to be finalized, this plan represents months of researching, planning, and preparing. Most notably, sincere appreciation is due to over 140 individuals that sacrificed significant portions of their summer to help consider the innumerable challenges and details associated with preparing for school in the midst of an active pandemic. Their time, professionalism, and commitment to our students, employees and families has been truly remarkable. Many of these teams remain active in their efforts as we seek to edit, improve, and refine this developing plan. Your feedback will be needed as part of this improvement process and as you read through the linked document, we ask that you continue to send your suggestions to Planning2020@helenaschools.org. Below are a few noted elements of the plan for your consideration.

Multifaceted Approach: From the beginning, we were encouraged to create a multifaceted plan that would be able to flex in accordance with the ever-dynamic nature of this COVID-19 Pandemic. Across the last two (plus) months, we have wrestled with a number of different designs as part of our efforts to develop the best possible models for our students, employees and families. This draft plan contains four phases, each designed differently from a health/safety precautions standpoint. Varied teaching and learning methods are employed including in-person instruction in Phases III and II, a blended approach in Phase I, and online/remote learning in Phase 0. Please also note that proposed school start/end times vary between Phase III and Phases II and I. These modifications are needed to ensure that schools are able to meet the needs of all of their learners including those that are attending in-person and remotely.

Rolling Start: As we approach the coming 2020/2021 school year, we face needs and demands that we have never prepared for in advance of opening schools. These needs necessitate a different approach as we seek to provide the training and professional development as well as the time required for planning, preparation, and welcoming our students. Rolling Start provides a required foundation to address these ongoing needs. However, as proposed, school schedules and attendance will vary across the first eight scheduled days of the 2020/2021 school year (August 26th through September 4th).

Noted Precautions: This plan includes numerous precautionary practices from wearing masks/facial coverings to enhanced cleaning protocols. The inputs utilized in this regard are numerous, from national and state guidance to the insights of local health professionals. While extensive, each is necessary as we collectively work to ensure the safest possible environment. However, these precautions will establish a new normal in terms of school procedures. These will require time and training as we prepare and begin the forthcoming 2020/2021 school year.

Please note that this draft plan does not include any determination as to which phase/model we will utilize as we open school in late August. Rather, the plan includes the above-noted rolling start model followed by a to-be-determined phase. Health professionals continue to warn against long term decisions that require us to accurately predict an unpredictable situation. Therefore, we will continue to proceed as quickly as we can but as slow as we must in considering the health and safety of our students, employees, and families.

Thank you all for your continued time, feedback, and support.

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