Learning to Change: Missouri School Boards’ Association Guidelines for Reopening Schools in a Coronavirus World

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

School every other day. Or different grades on different days. Or school all year. Or elementary school in-person, but higher grades online. Or longer school days. 

No teachers lounge. One-way hallways. No movement of students, move teachers instead.

No sports. More, but smaller sports teams. Or some sports, just not those with lots of close guarding. No special gym clothes. No gym showers.

Sound like any kind of school you ever heard of?

Probably not.

Coronavirus continues to impact every aspect of our world.

The Missouri School Boards’ Association Center for Education Safety released a 97-page document containing guidelines for schools looking to re-open this fall.

Reopening before the coronavirus is fully contained.

How to keep kids safe?

A sampling of the MSBA recommendations includes: 

  • Schedule grade levels to attend school on alternate days to minimize the number of students in the building and give students take-home meals. Alternatively, schedule half of each class to attend school on alternate days.
  • Schedule some of the grade levels to attend in the morning and some to attend in the afternoon.
  • Consider year-round schooling with alternating breaks to minimize the numbers of students in the building at any time.
  • Provide in-person instruction to elementary students and increase distance learning opportunities for higher grade levels.
  • Offer both in-person and virtual instruction so that students who do not have adequate resources may still access instruction, but the class size in one room is minimized.
  • Lengthen the instructional day to allow for fewer students in courses such as band, choir, and orchestra, during recess and in the cafeteria.
  • If the school is large and has multiple buildings, consider only closing the buildings closest to area outbreaks.
  • Review course sizes, structure and classrooms to decrease infection.
  • Reorganize P.E., choir, band, orchestra, and other large classes to allow for smaller classes, social distancing and other precautions.
  • Implement a home-room stay where the teachers rotate, as opposed to the students.
  • Eliminate assemblies, library time and use of the media center or reorganize to allow for social distancing.
  • Increase space between students during in-person instruction.
  • Eliminate or minimize students traveling to different buildings.
  • Move classes outdoors.
  • Rearrange desks to space them six feet apart.
  • Face desks in the same direction.
  • Require students to remain seated in the classroom and assign seats.
  • Minimize class sizes.
  • Eliminate activities that combine classes or grade levels.
  • Eliminate or minimize employees from traveling between buildings.
  • Consider broadcasting in-class instruction to multiple rooms to allow students to spread out.
  • Alternate recess to minimize the number of students on the playground, require social distancing, and allow time to disinfect equipment in between classes.
  • Prohibit students from sharing supplies like pencils and pens.

These aren’t rules. They are guidelines.

Ideas, really. 

And the MSBA doesn’t intend for a given school system to follow all of them.

The document itself says it “provides examples of protocols schools could implement, if feasible, during a ‘phased-in approach’ to bringing students and staff back to school. The material in the document is not required by law to be implemented and is evolving as new information and recommendations are issued by federal and state agencies.”

Ava R-1 School Superintendent Jason Dial is taking a wait and see approach.

“We are still reviewing the document,” Dial said. “If we feel changes need to be made to our regular opening procedures we will work with the BOE, teachers and parents to develop that plan.  I do believe it is too early to make any of those decisions at this point and are awaiting further guidance from the Governor and what Phase 2 looks like as well.”

The complete Missouri School Boards’ Association Pandemic Recovery Considerations document can be found online at: tinyurl.com/school-change.