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What school will look like for students this fall has been a hot topic, and with the school year approaching and COVID-19 cases surging, districts are starting to release their re-entry plans.

The School District of Washington issued a letter to parents and a tentative back-to-school plan for students Monday, July 20.

“After months of weekly meetings with area school district leaders, medical professionals and public health officials, as well as analysis of data from parent and staff surveys, the plans have been developed and aligned,” Dr. Lori VanLeer, superintendent, said.

The plan includes four possible scenarios, coded as green, yellow and red.

The first, or green, scenario calls for students to attend school on campus and meet in person for instruction. The Google Classroom/Schoology learning management system would be used to support classroom context, organization and student intervention.

In the yellow scenario one plan, elementary students would remain in school but secondary students would attend school on a modified schedule designed to reduce class size. Students would be on campus two days and e-learning three days.

In the yellow scenario two plan, all students in secondary and elementary school would be on a modified schedule to reduce class sizes.

Scenario four, coded red, calls for e-learning exclusively.

“We have planned for a variety of scenarios so we can shift and adjust as needed,” VanLeer said.

The goal, she said, is to keep students and staff safe. “Although many think children react differently to the virus, we are seeing a growth in infection in the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups. Another concern we have is the safety and well-being of our staff,” VanLeer said. “Finding substitutes is hard enough, much less in a situation where we have several people out either due to close contact exposure or due to actual illness for a prolonged period of time.”

The district is giving parents the choice of having students participate in e-learning regardless of which scenario it chooses. Registration for that program began Tuesday, July 21, and will end Thursday, July 30. Registration information can be found at washington.k12.mo.us.

A detailed final plan will be presented to the board of education at its meeting, Wednesday, July 29, at which time it will be shared with the public, VanLeer said. “The overview document was to provide a snapshot,” VanLeer said. “A decision regarding how we start the year will be announced by Aug. 10,”

VanLeer said the district will “lean heavily” on medical advice from Mercy and health departments when making its decisions.

Pacific’s Meramec Valley R-III students and their families have until July 31 to decide if pupils will return to the 2020-21 school year in-person, virtually, or some blend of the two options.

The school district’s plan is similar to Washington’s with coded scenarios of green, yellow, orange and red.

A 21-page, “living” re-entry draft plan was presented by MVR-III Superintendent Jonathan Mulford at the district’s school board meeting Wednesday, July 15.

Mulford said MVR-III likely will begin the new school year in the yellow status.

The St. Clair R-XIII School District is surveying parents on whether children should return in the fall for in-person learning.

Superintendent Dr. Kyle Kruse said the district has received more than 400 responses to date, with two-thirds of the respondents saying they would like school to be back in session, but with some protocols in place.

“We expect to have a re-entry plan Aug. 1,” Kruse said.

The Union R-XI School District is working on its plan for the upcoming fall semester but officials declined to give details.

The district did post the following message on its Facebook page: “We know you are patiently awaiting direction on what the 20/21 school year will look like,” the district said. “We understand this uncertainty can be difficult and we appreciate your patience as we work to ensure we have the best possible learning environment for students and staff.”

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced earlier this week that Catholic schools, including those in Franklin County, would be holding in-person classes this fall and further details will be forthcoming.