With the start of the 2020-21 school year just weeks away, the five school districts in Greene County have been working diligently and tirelessly to formulate their respective plans for the year despite serious challenges and issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Messenger reached out to the superintendents of the five districts to talk about what lies ahead for students preparing to enter the new school year.

This week, we focus on West Greene, Carmichaels and Jefferson-Morgan school districts, while next week’s issue will address the plans from Central Greene and Southeastern Greene school districts.

West Greene School District Superintendent Brian Jackson said the school district is planning to fully return to the classroom in a traditional (in-school) five-day model for all students, and will also offer an online option that is mostly based on the Google Classroom platform.

West Greene’s Return to Learn Educational Plan also offers additional hybrid options that were submitted to the state Department of Education in order to give the school district’s flexibility with what constituted an instructional day.

With the plan in mind, the school district has prepared a detailed survey on its website, www.wgsd.org, and the purpose of this survey is to determine what options families are considering when it comes to schooling and transportation of their child to and from school during the 2020-2021 school year.

Jackson stressed that the school district will require students to wear face coverings while moving throughout the campus. However, when students are socially distanced, students are allowed to remove their masks.

“We are in no way expecting students to wear a mask for the entire day,” he said.

Exceptions would be made for students with special needs or medical conditions provided that a doctor’s note is issued to the school, he added.

Jackson said the school district has been working diligently with the staff, teachers’ union, school board and support staff to solidify the plan, with the most important priority being the health, safety and well-being of everyone on school property.

“We have working on formulating the right plan for months, and we are all working to working together to address every necessary step,” he said. “It has been a tremendously difficult process trying to put together a plan that addresses all of the levels of precaution, the levels of comfort for parents and students and providing the best possible education.”

Jackson said the plan is solid because it addresses three phases: Return to school, online and hybrid. Though the plan has been solidified, it is awaiting school board approval and Jackson also expects there to be some adjustments made between now and the start of the school year.

“We also have to be prepared for any changes that may possibly come from the state Department of Health of the Governor’s office before the school year begins,” he said.

More information can be found on the school district’s website, www.wgsd.org, and on the district’s Facebook page.

West Greene School District’s first day of school is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 27.

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Carmichaels Area School District Superintendent Fred Morecraft said a phased reopening plan has been formulated for the 2020-21 school year.

A “Fast Facts” document was issued to parents detailing the plan, which includes a blended return model implementation during the first four weeks of school, followed by an evaluation of COVID-19 cases and progress during weeks five through eight, at which point a decision will be made to have a full return to school, a continuation of the blended return model or the implementation of a full digital model.

The blended return model, which Morecraft said meets all state regulations and CDC guidelines, will divide students into blue and gold groups. The blue group will physically attend classes Mondays and Tuesdays and participate in online classes Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The gold group will physically attend classes Thursdays and Fridays and participate in online classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“All students will participate digitally on Wednesdays, and teachers will have digital instruction on Wednesdays to continue to reinforce the weekly learning objectives,” Morecraft said, adding that accommodations regarding blue and gold group designation will be made for students living in the same household.

Morecraft said that any parent wanting their student to work from a full digital model will be provided this option through Carmichaels Digital Learning Environment, a fully digital curriculum provided by the district at no additional cost to parents. Students participating in this model will receive a Carmichaels Area diploma.

More information regarding how to apply and gauging feedback for this program will be made available in the near future, he said.

Morecraft stressed that due to daily information from the state Department of Health, the CDC, and our governmental agencies, all plans are subject to change; any notification of change will be presented to the community through the school district’s Return to School website, One Call platform and social media outlets.

The plan states that masks will be required when students are on the bus, entering and exiting school buildings, moving between locations in a school building and when social distancing is less than six feet.

Masks will not be required when students are in class and when they are eating and at recess, providing that students are practicing social distancing protocols of six feet.

Morecraft said parents will be responsible for providing students with masks from home in an effort to follow the mask requirements. Additional masks will be made available at the school for extenuating circumstances, and medical documentation must be provided for students who are unable to wear a mask due to health concerns.

Updated information may be found on the school district’s website, www.carmarea.org, and on its Facebook page.

Carmichaels Area School District’s first day of school is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26.

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Jefferson-Morgan School District Superintendent Joseph Orr said the district’s school board approved a phased reopening plan on July 20. The plan, he said, was required by the state Department of Education and will eventually depend on if Greene County remains in the green phase or returns to the yellow phase.

The first phase will be a 30-day reopening plan, a hybrid model where students will be divided into A and B groups and the A group will physically attend classes Mondays and Thursdays, while students in the B group will be in class Tuesdays and Fridays. All students, when not in the buildings, will be engaging in online instruction.

Following the first 30-day phased reopening plan, the next phase will be implemented if everything goes to plan. Orr said at this time, if the county is in green phase students will attend all school days per week while still following the district’s health and safety plan. If the county is in yellow, the students will continue the hybrid model.

“We’re doing everything we can to take it slowly and appropriately, and being as safe as possible,” Orr said.”We are cognizant of the fact that we want our students and staff back in school, but we want to make everyone’s safety is a top priority.”

Similar to other school districts, Orr said the school district will require students to wear face coverings while changing classes, lining up for the cafeteria or working in groups where six feet of social distancing cannot be attained. However, when students are socially-distanced, students are allowed to remove their masks, he said.

Orr said that if necessary, the district has a full contingency plan in place for students to receive their education remotely and online.

The district released a survey in early summer to parents asking for input on strategies for the upcoming school year, and Orr said a task force has been meeting once a week over the past few months to address any and all issues impacting the 2020-21 school year.

“I think we’ve done our due diligence, we’ve done a solid job in getting important information out to the community,” he said. “Our goal has always to be completely transparent with everyone, and I think we’ve achieved that goal.”

Despite the many difficult challenges in formulating a plan, Orr commends those who have been working in the trenches.

“I am very proud of the task force, staff and teachers who have worked so hard for the same common goal,” he said. They care deeply about the district, the kids, the community. The amount of time and effort and their dedication has been mind-boggling.”

More information about the Jefferson-Morgan School District’s upcoming school year can be found on its website, www.jmsd.org, and on the school district’s Facebook page.

Jefferson-Morgan School District’s first day of school is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26.

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