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Parents ‘clearly divided’ on back to school

The Lamar school board met Monday night to discuss how to proceed with the opening of school facilities for the 2020-21 school year. Last week, the system pushed back the first day of school from July 31 to August 12. (This story was written before the meeting but the board largely implemented the plan described here.) The system also used an online survey to get opinions from parents and staff and the response was strong and divided. ’The feedback from parents and staff was helpful in the development of our plans. I’ve not seen an issue with such clear division in my career. Many are adamant that we start back now while several desire we delay longer. Some responses indicated a strong stance on not wearing masks while others felt everyone should wear a mask all day, every day. It became very clear developing a plan to appease everyone was not going to happen. We feel the options we are presenting to parents are balanced and give them the flexibility to do what is best for them and their child,’ superintendent Jute Wilson said Monday. According to draft plans to be discussed Monday night, the system plans to offer both in-person and remote learning. The draft notes, however, ‘We want to emphasize face-to-face instruction is the most effective and most beneficial to students.’ Parents who want to begin the year with remote learning would have to register for it by Aug. 5. Remote learning models will contain plans for families with internet access and for those without. All students, both face-to-face and remote, will be assigned a teacher and a daily schedule. Those without internet access will likely be given learning packets and possibly materials on USB drives. Those materials can also be loaded onto school devices that can be loaned out. The system will provide devices if needed though there is a limited supply. In order to obtain a device, parents will be required to sign a waiver of responsibility and attend a training session. Students who start the year remotely must continue in that manner through August 28. Parents who wish to change models must declare by Wednesday for a change the following week. Commitments to a model will be for a minimum of two weeks. Students returning to school for face-to-face instruction will do so in facilities where great steps have been taken to ensure student safety. There will be spacing in classrooms and on buses. Hand sanitizing stations will be everywhere and buildings and buses will be disinfected daily. Visitors will be limited and no field trips will be scheduled. Students will be assigned seats in classrooms and on buses to assist in contact tracing if necessary. Each student and staff member will be issued a high quality cloth mask. School nutrition employees and bus drivers will be required to wear masks. Students and staff are expected to wear masks in common areas, according to the drafts. All of these measures were to be discussed Monday night and are subject to change.

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