The Lake County School Board unanimously approved the district’s reopening plan, which includes updated safety protocols, a revised scheduling template for middle and high schools, a new instructional option for students and a later start date, according to a news release from school officials.
After being shuttered since March in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, public schools in Lake will open on Aug. 24, two weeks later than the Aug. 10 date originally set by the board. Teachers are to return on Aug. 10. The extra weeks will provide additional time for teachers and staff to plan, train and prepare. It also gives district leaders more time to monitor local COVID cases in collaboration with the local health department.
Brick-and-mortar school buildings will open five days a week, offering a traditional instructional plan to students who choose that option. Middle and high schools will operate on a modified block schedule, lowering class sizes and requiring fewer class transitions for students in an effort to minimize their risk of potential exposure to the virus.
Students and their families can also choose a new full-time online option with daily instruction from teachers at the students’ home school or a school in their geographic region, when possible. Students would not be required to withdraw from their brick-and-mortar school to pursue this option. This new option joins the traditional option and two others available to Lake families: full-time online instruction through Lake County Virtual School, and the Modified Day option, which allows students to take English Language Arts and math classes in their school building and their other classes at home online.
Parents had been asked to complete an online Parent Intent Form to let the district know which option they prefer, but a new form will be created to include the fourth option and parents will have until July 29 to complete it.
Students who return to brick-and-mortar school buildings full-time or part-time will find many new safety protocols in place, designed to slow the spread of the virus.
On school buses, drivers and students will be required to wear face coverings. High touch areas will be cleaned between routes. Each bus will be thoroughly disinfected daily, and bus windows will be cracked to allow for greater ventilation. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and other sensory sensitivities, may have challenges wearing a face covering. The face-covering requirement for such students will be evaluated on an individual basis.
At school, temperature checks will be conducted on any student who exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms. Students exhibiting any symptoms, unless determined by the school nurse to pose no threat to other students, will be isolated from other students until the parent arrives to remove the student from the school.
Safe social distancing of six feet will be expected in classrooms when possible. When social distancing is not possible due to classroom space or by nature of the program/course and or instructional setting, students will be required to wear a face covering.
Hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water will be readily available to employees, students and visitors. Cleaning protocols will be increased, including replacing air filters as required by manufacture or sooner. This also includes cleaning cooling coils with disinfectant as per manufacturer recommendations.
The full list of safety protocols is available HERE.
At the request of Board Chairman Kristi Burns, Ph.D., board members also agreed to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, asking that local school boards have the authority to determine when and how it is safe to open all schools for daily face to face instruction. In so doing, the District would be asking for waiver of the emergency order issued by Florida’s education commissioner earlier this month requiring schools open in August with a full-time, five-day-a-week traditional option available to families who want it.