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Lafayette County School District approves return to school plan

The Lafayette County School District officially has a plan for students returning to classrooms next month.

During their July meeting on Monday, the Lafayette County School Board of Trustees approved their plan for the upcoming school year. The Oxford School Board of Trustees approved their plan last week.

Lafayette’s plan will use a traditional start, but with a hybrid method for the first month to allow students to learn and acclimate to all of the new changes and protocols in place this year, due to COVID-19.

After two days of professional development with teachers, starting on Aug. 3, students will return in two different groups. The groups, labeled the Red Team and Gold Team, will alternate days of in-person instruction for the first two days, with another professional development day scheduled between them on Aug. 6.

Beginning on Aug. 10, the Red Team will go to school for two consecutive days, then another development day on Aug. 12, before the Gold Team will go to school for two consecutive days, beginning on Aug. 13. That process will continue until Aug. 24, the tentative date Lafayette has scheduled to bring all students back and begin a traditional school year.

“We’re going to do this for two weeks, because we’re going to put a computer in every one of these kids’ hands,” Pugh said during the meeting. “We’re going to introduce a learning management system to basically every one of these kids. Which, all of this is new to us. …We feel like this is the best way to get these kids back in.”

The formation of the Red and Gold Teams will consist of going down the roster of each grade and alternating names to place on each team. Once that process is complete, any siblings who are not on the same team will be moved to make sure they come to school on the same days during the acclimation period, Pugh said.

During the acclimation period, students will also learn the new protocols implemented by the district, including one-way lanes in hallways when they change classes.

Students will be required to wear masks when changing classes or when walking the hallways throughout the day. They will be allowed to wear their own masks, but Pugh has ordered over 40,000 masks, with roughly 10,000 already waiting at the district office.

Social distancing will be enforced to the best of each school’s ability, Pugh said. He also acknowledged the difficulties of doing so once they resume traditional instruction with all students back on campuses beginning in late August.

The district has also purchased 80 50-gallon drums of hand sanitizer, which will be dispersed throughout the schools and put in spray bottles for teachers to use to help clean their classrooms.

Buses will also have methods of deep-cleaning, and backpacks will be static-cleaned with a spray upon arrival at school campuses.

With all of this comes the potential of outbreaks in classrooms of students testing positive during the school year. Another full district-wide shutdown of school is not expected like the one that occurred statewide and across the country in March, but there could be portions of classes or buildings that are closed.

“I don’t think you will see a widespread closing as we did; I think you will see pockets,” Pugh said. “If we have an outbreak of 70-80 kids at the high school, then those 80 kids are 10 percent of our population and you might have to close the school down.”

If in-person instruction is halted, Pugh said the teachers will still come to school to work on virtual instruction during the two-week quarantine period.

Much like OSD, Lafayette County is sending out a survey to all parents to ask them to choose which instruction method they want use for their children: in-person or virtual. The surveys must be returned by July 24, and whatever choice the parents make must be honored for a full nine-week grading period before deciding to change methods.

School counselors were beginning to work out the rosters for the Red and Gold Teams on Tuesday, and information is scheduled to be sent out to parents by the end of the week with more detailed plans pertaining to the return to school.