Maries R-2 board expects to discuss, adopt school re-entry plan

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/29/20

Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham said Monday that the one-page back-to-school plan is only what the district would need to do to reopen. A three-phase re-entry plan was scheduled to be …

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Maries R-2 board expects to discuss, adopt school re-entry plan

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Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham said Monday that the one-page back-to-school plan is only what the district would need to do to reopen. A three-phase re-entry plan was scheduled to be discussed on July 28, after The Advocate’s deadline.

“We are looking at a three-phase re-entry plan,” Basham said and explained that the plan would be color-coded. “Green is school as normal with additional safety precautions in place. Yellow is some community spread or someone in the district has tested positive.”

The Yellow Plan also has variations to the plan depending on the depth of community spread and positive novel coronavirus COVID-19 positive cases. Yellow includes a two day a week plan and a one day a week plan. Students would alternate attending classes in two smaller groups. One group would attend classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, the second on Thursday and Friday.

“Red code is completely remote learning because the Health Department recommends that we shut down for an extended period of time,” Basham concluded.

Virtual learning options will be available through the Green Plan

“Those who want to do that will have to fill out a declaration-of-intent form and contact the building principals to set up,” Basham said.

The school hired two outside contractors to provide a virtual learning option. Apex will teach middle and high school classes while Educere will teach elementary students who opt into virtual learning.

“Students and parents would have to have their own devices and availability to the internet in order to be applicable to participate in virtual learning courses,” Basham said.

Basham said the virtual learning option would not look like what the students did in the spring when school was closed.

“That, in my opinion, was emergency learning — whereas now it is a virtual plan,” she said. “It will not look like what it did last spring.”

The district has to pay for the virtual course provider and courses.

“We have to pay by the course for parents who want kids to go virtual and it will be another cost to the district,” she said. “It will not look like what it did last spring.”

The district has already been affected financially due to COVID-19 through sales and property tax. The state is also allocating less to education in the coming year or two. The cost of virtual learning is in addition to the other annual education costs.

However, Basham says there are many reasons why the district offered the virtual learning option and why they consider it worth the money.

“My biggest concern is we do have a lot of parents where the grandparents are raising kids,” Basham said. “It is difficult to ask grandparents to send kids to school when they are fearful of catching something.”

Still, she says the best place for children to learn is in the classroom but understands there are some concerns about sending students back to school.

“We get to count them as in attendance if they are using virtual, but at a lower rate,” she said when asked about the cost.

benefits outweigh

“They are still enrolled with the district and both the in-class and virtual options are tied to Missouri Learning Standards,” Basham said. “They will still be given instruction on our standards but may not come back on the same level as the other kids.”

Last year the district paid for a few students who opted into online learning for classes that were not offered on campus. Basham said the virtual learning option is in addition to that option.

“Green (Plan) is where we come four days a week, offer transportation an increase in safety precautions,” Basham said.

Students who opt into the part of the Green Plan that allows virtual learning will not be able to participate in athletic or extracurricular activities.

“What we are saying is ‘it is unsafe for them to come to school, it is unsafe for extracurricular activities,’” Basham said.

Students who participate in the Rolla Technical Institute program will still have the same opportunities from Belle High School.

“There is no change to that,” Basham said. “Unless Rolla (RTI) has additional restrictions — we will follow what they want.”

Students will have been out of school for a little over five months by the time they return on Aug. 25. Basham said teachers have already looked at the Missouri Learning Standards to determine what they will need to do to catch students up to their new grade level.

“There is a plan in place for that,” she said. “Our staff, when they come back to school, will be working on how to accelerate that learning. While closed, we determined which standards were not taught and what is essential.”

National news organizations have indicated the President Donald J. Trump may try to withhold federal funds for districts that do not open back up or open with a hybrid option. Basham said she has not heard anything about federal funds being withheld.

“We will just have to wait and see what comes out of the CARES 2,” she said. “They are still arguing that part out.”

The board was expected to discuss and adopt the estimated 12-page document that would place guidelines into play for the students to return to school.

“We are just looking forward to having our kids back in school,” Basham said. “We are excited to have them back and have normalcy return to their lives.”

Look for further reporting in the Aug. 5 edition of The Advocate.

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