Teachers, community members and administrators have weighed in on Bayfield School District’s reopening plan during the coronavirus pandemic, and now the district is embarking on a full review to see what, if any, policies should change.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, schools have closed, students have spent weeks learning from online lessons and districts have struggled with how to safely return to the classroom. Bayfield is already on its second version of a reopening plan, one meant to compromise between teachers, who wanted remote teaching options, and community members, who needed their children to return to school.
The policy review process will help school staff members determine which COVID-19 policies to keep, like in-classroom lunches, and which to change, like adding more in-person school days.
“Our goal is to get as many students as possible, in the safest manner possible, back to in-person learning,” said Superintendent Kevin Aten.
One of the most substantial ideas is to possibly increase the number of in-person learning days at Bayfield High School from two per week to as many as five days per week. Some virtual learning would likely continue.
“I think it’s important we have kids back in the building,” said Leon Hanhardt, high school principal. “However, we also prepare students for secondary education and college education. In college, many students have to understand how to take online and virtual coursework.”
Music students could be able to use their instruments again, with some limitations to comply with public health requirements, Hanhardt said.
The school is looking at how students are doing with their academic learning and social-emotional needs to determine what changes to make. Staff members are collecting test scores and grades to get an idea of how performance might be changing, he said.
The high school plans to keep many virus-related policies, like having two lunch periods, reducing material sharing and intensified sanitation practices.
As the schools consider adapting their policies, La Plata County is showing slightly increasing COVID-19 cases and low test positivity rates, according to San Juan Basin Public Health. The Bayfield Primary School and Bayfield Intermediate School have each quarantined classes after a family member of some students tested positive for COVID-19.
Amanda Holden, primary school principal, said the school’s cohort model and quarantine protocols worked, and the school did not have to close. The family is safe, and the community seems to be successfully managing the virus, she said.
“Everything is working well,” Holden said. “We have had school every day, and all of our kids are here. Considering current times, that’s a miracle.”
Intermediate and middle school principals did not respond Wednesday to requests for an interview.
The primary school does not expect any significant changes during the review process, aside from allowing students to share gym balls during recess.
Students are having lunch in classrooms, which will likely continue. It is too logistically challenging to use the cafeteria, which is not set up to meet coronavirus-related public health requirements, Holden said. Those requirements include social distancing, sanitation practices, group-size limits and more.
Administrative teams hope to be able to finalize their recommendations by Oct. 8, and the school board will review the schools’ suggestions during a board meeting Oct. 13. The next phase of the plan will start at the beginning of the second quarter, Oct. 19.
“I feel like Bayfield K-12 has done a great job in navigating the requirements around COVID and putting student and staff safety first,” Hanhardt said. “I strongly believe that ‘version three’ will continue to focus on student and staff safety but will also open up opportunities for students.”