MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Soon, students across Marion County will return to the classroom for the first time since schools moved to an online-only model in March when coronavirus cases were first detected in the state.
Marion County Public Schools has a plan in place and is ready to welcome students back as safely as possible with increased hygiene measures.
School officials said parents have two options to choose from to enroll their child in -- either traditional learning or virtual learning -- and they have until July 22 to pick.
Below is everything you need to know about Marion County’s back-to-school plan:
Start date: August 24
While there were originally no plans to alter the school start date, the board recently voted to push it back at least two weeks from Aug. 10. Members are still trying to decide if online classes will begin on Aug. 10 or if all forms of learning will be pushed back. You can see the academic calendar for 2020-2021 here.
Parents in Marion County can choose between two options:
- Traditional learning: The goal with this option is to provide the standard in-person classroom experience with some new safety protocols in effect. Students will have the chance to interact with others and their teachers but there will be some adjustments in place. VPK students must attend the traditional model.
- MCPSonline: This virtual choice is best for families who don’t yet want to send their child back to the classroom. Students will attend class remotely and follow the same schedules and bell times as their peers. Teachers will guide virtual students through learning during the school day. Some elective classes will only be offered in person. Core classes will be the same.
Learning option deadline: July 22
Parents need to fill out this form in order to pick an option for their child. A separate form should be submitted for each school-aged child in a household. Parents are encouraged to read through all the online materials thoroughly before picking an option.
If a student needs to move from one option to another, a change can be made within five days after the completion of a nine-week period.
Enhanced coronavirus-related health and safety measures
If parents opt for any in-person learning options, students will have to follow increased health and safety protocols to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Below are few topics of which parents should be aware:
Students will be required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, including in common areas, on the school bus and in hallways. The goal is to have social distancing measures in place as often as possible and students will spend most of the day only interacting with others in their class.
School custodians will regularly clean frequently touched surfaces and conduct overall cleanings at the end of each school days. Teachers and other employees will be provided with cleaning supplies and are expected to do their part to maintain a clean environment.
The goal is to make sure all teachers, staff, students and parents are aware of the hygiene expectations. Anyone who is going to be on campus should conduct a health screening for potential symptoms before arriving at school. Practices such as hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs will be reinforced with signage on campus.
To restrict students from being in contact with students from outside their group, certain measures will be put in place.
- Field trips, extracurricular events and inter-group events will not be scheduled.
- Desks will be placed six feet apart and if that’s not possible face mask use will be used.
- Desks will all face the same direction.
- Communal spaces such as cafeterias will be closed, or if that’s not possible, cleaned between each use.
- Grab-and-go meals will be served in classrooms.
- Arrival and drop-off times will be staggered.
- Try to assign supplies to each individual student rather than mixing supplies.
- Student belongings should be kept in an area that is separate from others and should be taken home each night to be cleaned.
What if someone tests positive for COVID-19?
An isolation room will need to be developed that is separate from the standard clinic to temporarily house anyone with coronavirus symptoms.
Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed to return to campus until they’ve gone three days without a fever.
Any area that was used by a person with COVID-19 symptoms should be closed off and not used until it can be thoroughly cleaned.
Anyone who tests positive will not be allowed to return to school until they’ve been cleared by a medical professional. Anyone with known contact with a positive case will be notified.
Athletics and club
The current plan is to allow teams and clubs to operate to a certain extent for the first semester and then re-evaluate before spring. Athletes will not be required to wear masks unless they are on a bus.
Parents will be able to attend games but crowds will be limited.
Students who opt for MCPSonline will be able to participate in sports, clubs and other after-school activities.