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August 3, 2020

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MRH Return to Learning Options in Response to COVID-19

The MRH School District has created this plan to aid in navigating the options for the resumption of instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. At this time, no decision has been made on which option will be utilized. MRH will be conducting additional surveys of families and staff, and working with local health department authorities to identify the data points which will be used to determine reentry status.

Families, students and staff must feel safe in the knowledge that extraordinary steps are being taken to reduce the impact of COVID-19. This MRH reentry plan is being shared through all communication channels. This document is an overview; much more specific information about student and staff expectations will be shared by school principals on August 3.

The guidelines within this plan are based on data and recommendations by: 

Critical decisions for MRH are being made by the Reentry Task Force, which meets weekly as it has throughout the spring and summer. Group members regularly consult with their respective statewide professional organizations in the areas of health and hygiene, social-emotional support, curriculum and instruction, finance, human resources and communications. The Task Force and auxiliary workgroups comprise:

  • Administrators from MRH Central Services
  • Teams of principals
  • School nurses and the District physician
  • Board of Education members
  • Teachers
  • Counselors

During the 2020-2021 school year, core services will take place under one of three scenarios which are still under review by the Board of Education. NO final decisions have been made as of July 20. Scenarios include:

  1.  Students attend in-person for their entire schedule 

  2. Students attend in a blended educational environment with some at-school attendance and some virtual components  

  3. Students participate in full distance learning in case of a school or district closure.  

Models have been developed to maximize layers of protection and to allow implementation of safety protocols. The District’s operational status is determined in large part by statistics compiled within the MRH community by the St. Louis County Health Department. MRH monitors the statistics frequently. Any change in status is ultimately the District’s decision unless and until a mandate is issued by the St. Louis County government.

One possible reentry status under current community conditions (as of mid-July) is a blended instructional model that will include on-site instruction and consistent use of virtual technology. The features of the blended model are tailored to the age and specific needs of our students. 

Families who do not want their children to attend on campus but would like to stay connected to their home school and remain enrolled as a full time student at MRH may choose a full virtual option. A full virtual option can be chosen on a semester basis. Instruction would be completed entirely online from home. Instruction would be provided through conditions outlined in the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. Informational webinars will be held the week of July 27 for families who may be interested. Details on those webinars will be announced soon.

Multiple layers of safety protocols will be used including:

  • Planned, directional traffic flow
  • Entrance and exit protocols
  • Social distancing measures
  • Physical barriers
  • Disinfecting classroom surface
  • Frequent handwashing and access to hand sanitizers
  • Use of masks (required for students in grades 3-12) 

Some operational aspects of the school day will be consistent across ALL District buildings under the blended instructional scenario.

Personal Protection/Health & Nursing

  • Face masks required for all staff members
  • Face coverings required for all students in grades 3 through 12; urged but not required for ECC students (by St. Louis County mandate, masks are not required for children under age 9). The District will provide each student a mask. Replacements for lost, damaged or forgotten masks will be available on a limited basis.
  • Masks required for allowable visitors (those deemed essential to District operations)
  • Daily health screening protocols in place for staff, students and visitors
  • Discontinue use of volunteers indefinitely
  • Extensive signage in place as visual reminders of universal precautions
  • Secure waiting rooms for ailing students who must be sent home
  • Reporting system in place for notification to authorities, families and employees of suspected COVID-19 cases within District spaces
  • MRH will follow St. Louis County Health Department guidelines for exit and re-entrance of students who may be ill or at-risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.

Curriculum & Instruction

  • Combined on-site and virtual learning will allow greater social distancing for students and staff
  • District to ensure device access for all K-12 students
  • Identify and provide online assessments/tools to monitor student progress and identify gaps
  • Limit use of shared supplies

Facilities

  • Buildings will have marked arrival and dismissal locations
  • Extensive signage will be in place to remind students and staff of best hygienic practices
  • Directional, or “wayfinding,” signs will help manage foot traffic to minimize interaction
  • Classrooms will be reconfigured to distance students and staff
  • Occupancy limits will be placed on small spaces i.e. copy rooms, lounges, kitchenettes
  • Foot-operated sanitizer stations will be installed
  • Drinking fountains will be refitted to allow students to fill water bottles/containers
  • Student visits to restrooms will be regulated to keep occupancy low
  • Reception/administrative areas will feature plexiglass partitions
  • Rules for community use of facilities will be enforced
  • Visitors to buildings will be limited to only those who are essential to operations
  • Increased cleaning protocol for all buildings, especially “high touch” surfaces, with the use of specialized cleaning products

Food Service

  • Breakfasts and lunches will be served in staggered shifts and in grab-and-go formats for MS/HS students to allow social distancing
  • K-6 students will eat meals in classrooms
  • Intensive cleaning will take place between meal shifts
  • No communal condiment/silverware/water/ice stations available
  • Students enrolled at MRH but not attending on-campus learning environments will have access to curbside meal pickup options. 

Transportation

  • Additional and shorter routes created to reduce numbers of students per bus and to promote distancing
  • Masks required during routes
  • Hand sanitizer available for entry and exit
  • Assigned seating with one child or family group per seat
  • Specialized sprayers to efficiently disinfect bus interiors between each run
  • Families encouraged to use private conveyance when/if possible
  • Streamlined traffic protocols in place for families dropping off and picking up students

Counseling/Social-Emotional Supports

  • Promote stress reduction activity
  • Encourage students and staff to speak with people they trust about concerns
  • Promote resources and help hotlines
  • Student Services, in conjunction with partner social service agencies, will provide extra support to those in need

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: “Who determines the severity of infectious spread in our community and how that factors into determining what learning looks like in August?”

A: The MRH administrative team relies on the St. Louis County Health Department for zip-code based statistics on positive cases, hospitalizations and related trends. Thus far, the Health Department has not translated that data into parameters to define operational phases for schools. The MRH Board of Education will hold a special work session this week with two primary considerations: how to better utilize local pandemic statistics to inform operations, and how to marshal local public education institutions to present collective, cohesive regional messages to families based on County Health Department information.

Q: “If students return to the buildings, how can I be assured that my child won’t be exposed to coronavirus?”

A: Other than quarantine/isolation, there is no type of precaution which is completely effective in protecting anyone from exposure. But when we utilize multiple layers of environmental protections and distancing procedures, on top of mask-wearing and hand-washing, we reduce the risk immensely.  

Q: “If it was unsafe to be in school in March when there were fewer cases of COVID-19, why would you consider having kids return to school at this time, especially when cases are spiking?”

A: Since March, we have obtained not only the tools, but the knowledge to better understand and combat COVID-19. It has taken a good deal of time to budget for and procure large quantities of items such as sanitizer, face coverings, cleaning supplies, and signage. It also requires significant time and effort to identify and implement the necessary instructional components. That has been our focus over the spring and summer.

Q: “My child doesn’t want to wear a mask in school, and I support that. Are you going to force students to wear them?”

A: We believe that students will make the correct choices surrounding personal responsibility, which has always been a component of teaching in the MRH District. It is our custom to resolve individual issues on a case-by-case basis without imposing penalties or punishment. It is our expectation that MRH students and staff will faithfully observe this piece of our layered protection plan.

Thanks to our inclusive planning process, which has relied on public forums, parent surveys, and staff-driven workgroups, MRH is building an unprecedented education model that mitigates the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and gives families options. MRH will evolve together to meet the needs of our students, parents, and staff this school year. The well-being of our community is our top priority.

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.