Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools announced Friday schools plan to reopen at the end of next month under the traditional school model with students in physical classrooms.
The first half-day of school was moved back from Aug. 11 to Aug. 31. The change allows several factors to take place officials said would benefit students, parents and teachers alike. The extra time will give staff the chance to take part in added health and safety protocol training while still keeping established fall break, spring break and graduation dates intact.
Facemasks will be required for all middle and high school students in common areas and when social distancing cannot be maintained. Special education and elementary students will not be required to wear face coverings, though it is encouraged. Students are encouraged to bring their own coverings, though the district will make some available, if needed.
All employees will be required to wear facemasks in common areas, though some exemptions may be made as needed.
As part of a 22-page reopening plan, schools officials said while regular attendance is important, any student who is exposed to a person with COVID-19 or exhibits symptoms should stay home. Before- and/or afterschool care programs will continue to be provided, though they may be subject to additional policies, procedures or requirements.
Students will continue to be fed in the school cafeteria, and while the schools will do their best to spread students apart, they emphasized parents should not expect that they will be kept at least 6 feet apart from their peers during meals.
Busses will continue to run, though families will be required to confirm whether their students will ride to give the district time to adapt the routes, if necessary. Facemasks will be required for students who ride busses. Individual schools may make changes on drop-off and pick-up routines as they see fit.
Recess will still happen, but no field trips will be made during the school year.
Water fountains will be unavailable until further notice.
Custodial staff will make disinfecting stations available at certain building entrances and increase focus on two-step cleaning throughout the day, focusing less on window cleaning and floor buffing, among other things. Deep cleanings of the schools and busses will take place each evening.
Families who do not feel comfortable sending their students to in-person learning may instead opt into CMCSS K-12 Virtual, an online classroom taught by teachers at no additional charge. The service will provide core classes, along with high school classes that closely resemble those in a traditional setting. It will be a full-time, semester long commitment.
A form will be sent out next week to allow all families to make their choice between traditional and online learning for the upcoming school year.
Schools officials will continue to develop a rubric that covers potential individual school or district closures with a potential transition to online learning should ample positive COVID-19 tests appear in schools.
Mayors back school openings
Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett and Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts offered their combined support for Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools reopening plan announced Friday by Director of Schools Millard House.
“CMCSS will reopen schools in the traditional model [students physically present in schools] for the 2020-21 school year with health and safety modifications and precautions in place,” House said. “However, all parents and guardians will have the option to enroll their children in CMCSS K-12 Virtual, a school of choice taught by CMCSS teachers and provided at no cost to families.”
Full details about the plan are available at cmcss.net/reopening.
Both mayors agreed the school system, with more than 35,000 students enrolled, plays a primary role in shaping the social and emotional character of the community.
“The reopening of schools is very challenging for schools across our nation,” Durrett said. “After hearing the plan that Mr. House presented, I believe our school system leadership is doing all they can to meet the challenges of educating our children while working to keep people healthy in a complex time. It is important that we back the decision of our school leaders while doing the best that we can to support our students.”
Pitts said he appreciated the full briefing House provided the mayors Friday morning before the announcement.
“I fully support the ‘two-option’ plan announced by our schools director,” Pitts said. “I know a lot of thought and hard work went into this decision, and I think it is the best path to ensure the children of this community continue to learn and grow while ensuring their health and safety. Given all the uncertainty and challenges posed by the COVID-19 public health emergency, our school system is on the right track and deserves our support.”