By Amelia Marceau - October 8, 2020
Schools everywhere have been continually adjusting to COVID-19 related obstacles ever since the pandemic first hit sending students, faculty and staff home back in early March. Although there is no perfect model and every school district has different and specific needs, for the most part, there are certain best practices all schools can learn, implement and follow. We recently conducted a webinar with K-12 industry leaders in which we addressed the new reality of school safety and discussed data from our K-12 Back-to-School Safety Survey.
Our own JP French, Director of Strategic Accounts, and Kathleen Ohlson, Content Marketing Director, welcomed K-12 experts Sunda Cramer, Student Systems Application Manager from the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Schools, Captain Rick Francis, Director of District School Safety and Security from Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and Brian Skibinski, Chief Information Officer from Forest Ridge School District 142.
Adapting to the new school setting posed many challenges for school communities. In our recent K-12 School Safety Survey, 77% of respondents said social distancing was a top safety concern. All of the panelists agreed and shared some of their other school safety concerns for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“For my role particularly, we had to make sure we had enough room in our schools for all of the students to come back because that was an option,” Sunda Cramer said. “Our whole department had to walk through the schools and tell them what safety issues they had and where to put classrooms.”
Cramer expressed that having the right technology to support any new school plans is essential to a smooth adjustment to the 2020-2021 academic year.
“We use SwiftK12 to send out google forms to all students and staff members at 5:00 am where they are able to fill out the five-question form about their current wellness,” Cramer said. “If their name isn’t on the form, then they are stopped at the door and unable to enter the school.”
There seems to be a different academic model for every school district. During the webinar, there was a poll posed to all attendees asking what their districts are currently doing amid the coronavirus pandemic. 56% of attendees responded that they are using a hybrid model of in-class and at-home learning, 11% responded they have year-round in-class learning, and 33% selected “other”.
When compared to the results of our national survey, the higher percentage matched as 75% of survey respondents stated they were implementing a hybrid class model to start. “Right now we are in the hybrid model,” Sunda Cramer said. “We run on trimesters and our goal is to, after the first trimester ends around Thanksgiving, get everyone back into our school. Around Christmas time, we hope to have everyone in our schools for face to face learning.”
In Seminole County they are trying to accommodate all students to the best of their ability. Captain Rick Francis outlined the four models their schools have been using. The first model is brick and mortar with about 46% of their students choosing that model. The second is called Seminole Connect, which is where the kids are at home but they’re following a routine schedule with their teachers and peers. The third is the hybrid model and the fourth is the complete virtual model.
“We realize this could be the new normal for a little while so we built those four models,” Captain Francis said. “We’re going to continue all those options at least for this school year. We’re getting ready to survey our parents to let them pick what option to prepare properly for the second quarter, but we expect those models to continue for the rest of the school year.”
Similar to the others, Brian Skibinski outlined the model Forest Ridge School District 142 is using this academic year. But Skibinski stressed being cautiously optimistic, especially with the upcoming flu season.
“Currently we are in that hybrid plan where Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday students are in class while Wednesday is the full remote day. Right now we’re at 70% hybrid and 30% remote,” Skibinksi said. “We all want to get back to in-person learning but we’re all cautiously optimistic because everyone is concerned about the upcoming flu season and how school is going to go. We’re prepared to go fully remote if we need to because everyone takes home their device. We’re still going to stay in the smaller hybrid section where there are 10-15 kids per day in a classroom.”
School communities may look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean your safety technology gets a break.
“One of the biggest challenges we’ve found is even at 46% capacity, which helps us with social distancing and everything else, there are still requirements for safety to continue,” Captain Francis said. “I’m of the belief that there are individuals who are going to test the system or school in an active threat scenario. We’ve made adjustments for some of the processes to account for social distancing, how to do lockdown drills, and stuff like that.” Captain Francis also emphasized the importance of keeping virtual and hybrid students informed if they happened to miss the drill or it happens during their virtual class.
“Since March, the big two words I would use are you have to become agile and adaptable. Communication is a huge part of my own job so I take care of that public relations part to all of our community,” Skibinski said. “We have found that emails get really lost in the shuffle. When we sent the survey about going remote, 80% of my clicks came from a text-message we sent through SwiftK12. The key in communication is to meet the parents and the families where they’re at, which is social media, text messages, the website.”
Safety is everyone’s top concern when it comes to schools reopening. With all of the different models, concerns and technology, it can be difficult to find things that work best for you. Watch the webinar recording to learn more about how these school systems have been adapting to COVID-19.
Amelia is a marketing intern at Rave. She loves to write about anything safety related. When she’s away from the keyboard, you’ll either find her playing with her dog, ice skating, or competing in a triathlon. Amelia attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in Political Science and Journalism.
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