TOWN OF BELOIT—The School District of Beloit Turner is moving forward with plans to reopen school for in-person classes this fall, with safety measures in place and remaining flexible in case staff has to move to online instruction.

All seven members of the Board of Education voted to approve a reopening proposal presented by Superintendent Dennis McCarthy at Monday night’s virtual meeting.

“Things may change between now and September. As of right now, I’m feeling that we have to be flexible,” School Board President John Turner said. “And we have to err on the side of caution and safety.”

The administrative Road to Reopening plan calls for students to have the option of returning to in-person classrooms, with numerous safety measures in place. The plan also includes guidance on how schools could transition to partial or entirely online learning models dependent on recommendations from the Rock County Health Department related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the plan states that parents will be given the option of whether they wish to choose to send their child to school or to keep their students at home to access virtual learning models as part of a blended delivery method. 

McCarthy said a recent survey showed that nearly 80% of families feel comfortable sending their children back to school in the fall. He said responses range anywhere from those saying schools must reopen at all costs and others who believe schools absolutely should not reopen.

Separate feedback from staff in the Beloit Turner School district is expected to be received by the end of the week.

Among the numerous safety measures outlined in the plan are that each student will have their temperature checked every day at school. Students with a temperature of 100.4 or higher—or those experiencing possible symptoms of the coronavirus—must be sent home.

Face coverings will be strongly encouraged inside school buildings and will be required on buses. About 35% of parents responding to the survey said the wearing of masks would make them feel safer for their children being at school.

Staggered bell times are intended to help reduce crowding in hallways and common areas. Students will report directly to classrooms, and will not have assigned lockers in the middle or high school. Elementary students will have staggered release times to get items from their cubbies.

Some odds and ends include that district staff will regularly sanitize surfaces, and drinking fountains will be shut off. Hygiene tips will be posted around each school. Some physical barriers will be installed as needed. Students will be spaced apart on buses.

Students will also eat their lunches in classrooms instead of eating in cafeterias.

The plan also includes a rearranged schedule, with block periods for class times. Classes could be three hours long, with two classes per day and a lunch break in between.

The Road to Reopening plan also includes a section detailing five different levels of severity of the Coronavirus and how those risk levels would impact whether classes return to online learning models.

Overall, McCarthy said teachers are being encouraged to use Google Classrooms as much as possible in order to make any possible online transitions easier if need be later this year, whether it would be partial or entirely virtual again.

McCarthy said the district administration has not committed one way or the other regarding whether extracurricular activities can be offered this fall. He emphasized that the district is closely following guidelines issued by the Rock County Health Department.

“We are taking this very slow,” McCarthy said.

This article was updated at 10:34 a.m. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 to correct an error regarding families having the choice to send their children back to school grounds this fall.