SCCPSS holds pilot program to test safety protocols before reopening schools in the fall

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) leaders are putting their plans into action for how to keep your child safe in the classroom.

The district is holding a pilot program this week to simulate what school will be like in the fall for teachers and students. SCCPSS Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett invited News 3 to Gadsden Elementary School on Tuesday to view the district’s work in preparing and planning for when schools return.

During this summer day camp, staff members begin by checking kids’ temperatures before they hop onto the bus. The buses are numbered and marked to ensure students keep six feet apart. Once students arrive at the school, they are asked a series of questions and given hand sanitizer.

The hallways also have markers on the ground to indicate where students should stand when transitioning from room to room.

Levett says that due to the state’s budget cuts, faculty members may be required to take on multiple jobs. Teachers will have to implement social-emotional learning (SEL) tools into their lesson plans to speak with students about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

Teachers will also be tasked with monitoring students and ensuring that they are keeping their distance.

“Depending upon how we open, we may have to use various spaces in the building to add additional instruction, so the cafeteria may not continue to have the same look that it had before,” said Dr. Vallerie ​Cave, the associate superintendent for K-12 School Transformation & Innovation.

Cave says class sizes will be reduced from 25 to 10 kids per teacher and schools will be divided into sections for each group to have its own space. Levett added that those groups will stay together for lunch and recess, and each will be assigned a designated area where kids can play.

Students are required to wash their hands before entering and leaving the classroom. The school district will provide a desk organizer for each student so that children can avoid sharing supplies.

Levett says that a sanitation crew will come in at the end of every school day to fog the classrooms.

All faculty members and visitors will be required to wear masks. However, the superintendent says the district will most likely not require that students wear face coverings.

“That’s the hot topic, do kids have to wear masks? We see them wear masks out in the community, and they seem to be doing okay but there are lots of people who are vigorously opposed to that, so that’s a decision that we’ll continue to examine,” said Levett.

Levett says the district still plans to have a virtual learning school available as an alternative for students. However, she says that for parents who choose to send their children to school in-person, they need to be prepared for the chance of temporary school closures if someone in a school building tests positive.

She tells News 3 that every family needs to choose what feels right for them.

“We will not have a perfect solution for everyone, but it will be a perfect solution for many. What we think about is not the individual child, although we do in terms of instruction and all of that, but we think in terms of the 37, 000 plus children and 5600 employees. That means for many, it will be the very best we can do under very difficult circumstances,” said Levett.

The district is leading a task force made up of 115 parents, community leaders, faith-based leaders, military members, and SCCPSS staff to answer all of these “what if” scenarios. The task force is divided into groups to tackle specific subjects.

The group will meet over zoom on June 25 and again on July 9 to finalize its plans for the district. At this time, school is still set to begin on August 5.

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