Town Hall Q&A with Dr. Adams - June 26, 2020

  • More than 1,000 questions were submitted during the Town Hall. Many of the questions were repeats or variations. Therefore, the questions have been summarized for this Q&A. We will be adding to this as new information is available. Answers are subject to change based on information received.

  • MASKS AND OTHER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)

    Will staff and students be provided with masks? YES, two reusable masks per person.

    Can staff and students wear their own handmade masks? YES, but bandanas and scarfs are not allowed in lieu of a mask that covers the nose and mouth.

    Why do children under the age of 9 not have to wear masks? This age has been recommended by the City of St. Louis Department of Health. The thought is that younger children will have difficulty wearing masks for long periods of time, and younger children are less likely to transmit to older kids and adults.

    Why do all children have to wear masks on the bus but ages 8 and younger do not have to wear them inside school? It is more difficult to socially distance on a bus, given the tight quarters. Mandatory masks will help prevent the spread of germs on the bus.

    Will teachers have the option to wear masks or face shields? The DOH does not recommend face shields because the virus can get past shields. It is not something we are looking to purchase, as they are not recommended and do not protect as well as masks do.

    Can shields be provided for Pre-K staff due to coughing, sneezing in staff faces? POSSIBLY. At this time, we have not purchased shields. Please make special requests through your principal.

    Would you consider purchasing masks with clear windows for better connection? POSSIBLY. Please make special requests through your principal.

    Will the District provide extra masks to school sites for the occasion when a parent or visitor shows up without a mask? YES, schools will have additional masks on hand.

    Will teachers have to wear a mask during instruction? YES, the expectation is that masks are worn throughout the school day when indoors.

    Some of our younger students with moderate to severe disabilities have to ride the bus but won’t keep a mask on. What is the plan for those students? We are looking into ways to provide support for these students. We will try to help them understand and learn to wear the masks. It is something we are aware of and are planning to address.

    Will SLPS provide a mask every time a student loses one? Each school will have a reserve of masks.

    Why would the social distancing policy be left up to individual buildings? Should it not be a set number of students per square foot? To clarify, there will be District policies/guidelines for all schools and buildings, but they will look different at each location. Square footage is different throughout the District, and we are looking at that and our ability to put in furniture in particular rooms.

    What plans might we have in place for older students with conditions that deter them for keeping a mask on? We will make those determinations on a case-by-case basis. Overall, students will be required to wear masks and we will approve exemptions based on the student’s specific situation.

    The idea that families will choose whether students attend schools in person or virtually has been discussed. Will families make a choice and stick with it the whole year or will they be able to change their decision as the year progresses? There will be opportunities during the year (set times) to accommodate change. We plan to let parents know when they can request a change from brick and mortar to virtual or virtual to brick and mortar.

    Will teachers have to wear their mask during instruction? YES, the intention is that teachers will wear masks anytime they are in the building except for when they are eating.

    Will SLPS provide masks with clear/see-through mouth shields so hearing-impaired stakeholders who depend on lip-reading can understand others? This is a special order that would be separate from the masks we have purchased to provide to all staff and students. Please contact your principal for special requests.

    The District has many policies that are not consistently enforced in schools. Will social distance and mask policies actually be enforced? YES, it is the intention that these policies will be enforced. Please contact hrstaff@slps.org if a staff member is refusing to comply.

    In kindergarten classroom it sometimes important for students to see the teacher’s mouth to produce sounds. Could teachers wear a shield instead of mask at these times? This is a special order that would be separate from the masks we have purchased to provide to all staff and students. Please contact your principal for special requests.

    Why don’t you at least request all students wear masks? Our recommendations are based on guidance provided by the Department of Health. Students in grades 4 and up are to wear a mask whenever they are in school unless they are eating.

    Are we allowed to ask parents that their child wear a mask if the staff member has underlining health issues? All students in grades 4 and up are to wear a mask whenever they are in school unless they are eating.

    Will secretarial/reception and similar offices and desks be provided the plastic shield for our protection? Is it possible to use clear protective shields to separate the desk or seats, especially for high school students? We are looking at that for front desks (offices), but at this time not for desks or seats in the school. 

    Are we allowed to ask parents to have their child wear a mask? YES, the expectation is that children age 9 and older should wear a mask daily.

  • THE RESTART SCHOOL TASK FORCE

    Why are there no teachers on the task force? That is incorrect. There are two teachers and one ICA on the task force along with multiple principals.

    Has the District considered adding pediatricians and epidemiologists to its committees to advise on health and wellness? Dr. Adams and the task force is in close contact with the City of St. Louis Department of Health, including weekly meetings with its director, Dr. Frederick Echols.

  • THE SCHOOL DAY

    What will a classroom setting actually look like? Every school has a different layout, so we are developing a plan for each school site. In general, desks will all face the same direction with a 3-foot radius around them.

    If there are temperature checks for all staff, will this affect clock-in times? Also, how will this affect instructional time if students will also need temperature checks? Possibly, it will have impact, but we are working on acquiring devices to expedite the process.

    What will the bus rides for our students look like? It is difficult to enforce social distancing on buses but all students, regardless of age, will wear masks. (We will know more once we learn how many parents will request transportation.)

    What will lunch time look like? We are considering lunch and breakfast in the classroom for elementary and middle, not high school. We are working with principals to determine the best way to make it happen. One idea is that kids go to lunch in a group and sit in required seats to help with contact tracing.

    Will field trips be able to occur? NO, field trips have been suspended for the fall semester. We will reevaluate for the spring semester.

    Will temperature be taken when a student gets on the bus or when they get to the building? Temperature will be taken when the student arrives to the building.

    Will children have recess? YES, students will have recess in their cohorts. Extra precautions will be taken to ensure social distancing and the cleaning of equipment.

    How are we to keep students six feet apart when our school uses only tables? Facilities is working on individual strategies for each school.

    Will there only be 10 students or less in classroom? Class size will be determined individually for each classroom, based on how desks can be arranged to ensure social distancing.

    Will parents be required to make appointments before entering the building? Appointments are highly recommended but not required in all cases, such as an emergency situation. Parents will need to wear a mask to enter the school.

    How feasible would it be to incorporate outdoor "mock" classrooms, as the weather and school grounds permit? The possibility of transmission is lower outside, so this could definitely be done, as long as social distancing guidelines are met.

    Will we create one-way hallways and stairwells to help with social distancing? YES, we are encouraging the establishment of one-way pathways.

    Will we have a regular school day? It depends on what you mean by “regular school day.” We can be fairly certain in that nothing will be as we left it, but the specifics of the school day are still under discussion at this time. 

  • STAFFING

    How will changes to instruction affect staffing? It is too soon to say until we know what families will choose, e.g., in-person, virtual, etc.

    Will all staff retain employment for the future school year and what can we expect on our salaries? At this point in time, we don’t participate any reduction in force. The District is currently in negotiations with the Union regarding salaries

    Will teachers provide lesson plans for students in school as well as virtual? Teachers will be asked to create one plan, not multiple.

    Do teachers get to choose between virtual and site-based teaching? Virtual teachers will be selected by the school principal who will coordinate the schedule. The teachers will be housed in the school, but doing work online.

    What will be the process for deciding teachers' schedules regarding virtual and blended learning? Will some teachers be working from home? Do teachers and staff who have children in other districts that have decided to be virtual have the option to be virtual as well? At this point in time, virtual/online teachers will work from their assigned buildings.

    Will we have an increased amount of bus drivers to lower bus numbers? We will be meeting with First Student in late July or early August to work out those details.

  • TECHNOLOGY

    Microsoft Teams proved to be difficult and not adequate for online instruction. Will there be any new technology or software? We are providing professional development sessions on Microsoft Teams for both staff and families.

    I know we hope to be 1:1. Will that technology be iPads? Will students choosing in-person classes be able to take those home? We are going to be providing 1:1 technology. Students in PK-8 will receive an iPad. Grades 9-12 will receive a laptop. Families that need internet access will also be provided a hotspot. All equipment can be used in school or at home for learning.

    If students opt to learn virtually, will technology be set up in the classroom so that they are still a part of the class? At this time, we are still researching all options. We will have more information for you soon.

    I appreciate that SLPS emphasizes the importance of equity. How will the district ENSURE that English language learners are able to find success at this time with very limited resources and understanding.  Will ALL information and guidelines be provided in ALL home languages, including how to use technology being distributed? We will continue to work closely with our ESOL team to translate documents and scripts and assist families, as needed.

  • STANDARDIZED TESTS

    Will building permits be given for ACT tests? What if the students all come from SLPS? We are looking into that and will likely approve it.

  • SICK POLICY

    Has there been discussion regarding asymptomatic people that would not display a fever? YES, that is a concern. You can be asymptomatic and still transmit the disease. That is why wearing a mask every day is required for staff and students (9 and older).

    If a staff member has to self-quarantine, what is the policy? Will they still get paid? What happens if a teacher tests positive before school starts? Any employee who tests positive and is not able or not authorized to work remotely must use vacation, sick, or personal time off unless he or she qualifies, applies, and is approved for paid leave under the .

  • CLASS SIZES

    What will class sizes look like? Right now, 30% of parents who are saying virtual. If that stays the same, there are fewer kids in the building. We will take it class-by-class, school-by-school to determine the options that work for all our families.

    If parents want to send their students to school, but the building capacity does not allow? All District buildings will have adequate capacity, so we do not anticipate this will be a problem.

    Will students be attending the full school day? We will know more about schedules once we do the final survey of families to determine how many students will be doing in-person instruction and how many will be doing virtual or Edmentum.

    Has the district purchased trailers to allow for smaller class sizes? NO, at this time, we believe we can achieve social distancing in our current buildings.

  • NURSES

    Will nurses be provided in all school buildings? There are currently 19 vacancies for nurses in our District. As you know, the health industry has been impacted greatly by this virus, which has further impeded our ability to find nurses. In the past, we hired only registered nurses. Now, LPNs are being considered, at least for the next school year.

    Has the District had an increase in staff including school nurses quitting because of these decisions of returning to school in August? No, we are not seeing that trend.

    With only one nurse and over 300 students, plus students needing to go through medical detectors, how will we be able to effectively conduct temperature and wellness checks each day? Nurses are not required to do screenings. We have not yet created screening assignments. Currently, we are working on purchasing automatic temperature scanners to facilitate the screening process.

    Will school nurse's budgets be increase so that additional supplies can be ordered? And because supplies don't normally come until after the school year begins, can nurses order supplies when staff starts back on the 17th? The budget will not increase, however additional supplies have been ordered by the District. Nurse supplies will be ordered in a timely manner to obtain prior to the start of the school year.

  • SOCIAL DISTANCING

    How will students be held accountable for social distancing? It is almost impossible for students to social distance 100% of time. We will do all in our power to do help them keep distance in classes, hallways, cafeterias and gyms, but the wearing of the masks will help address the issue of students who occasionally do not adhere to it.

    Can we consider strict assigned seating in classes and on buses in case tracking needs to occur? Assigned seating is likely to occur as part of our recommendation.

  • ART/MUSIC/GYM/SPORTS

    Will we still have art, music, gym? YES, the arts are a major part of our education program so, it is our intent to offer them as best we can under the new safety guidelines. It will be a challenge, but we believe it can be done with some creativity and adjustments for safety, e.g., no sharing materials or equipment, cleaning gym equipment after use, music outdoors socially distanced.

    What are the guidelines for classes that typically share equipment and supplies like art classes? Our instructional team will provide each student with his or her own individual craft kits, which can be labeled with the student’s name and kept at school or, in the event of another closure, they can be taken home.

    For art, would additional monies be given for extra supplies so the students don't have to share? The District will make sure that every student has access to all art and writing materials as needed.

    Will related arts take place in classrooms? Or, go to the students’ homerooms? Locations for the arts may vary by school, but it is likely that as we work to keep students in place in one classroom, some schools will opt to have all arts activities take place in the classroom.

    I'm concerned about the quality of education we will be able to offer in the arts going forward. Music classes require the same level of practice and attention to detail as sports programs, and the recommended modifications as they stand do not allow for a quality and continuous education environment. Do we have other modifications at this time beyond having classes outside? Would it be possible for those courses to move to larger rooms such as school auditoriums? We share your concern and agree that music and the art are very important to our students’ overall academic growth and development.  We welcome teacher input and suggestions on how we can shift our thinking to new ways to modify our programs and that could certainly include moving certain classes and practices to larger rooms such as auditoriums.

    Will there be related arts or elective classes for students who choose virtual learning? Our intent is to ensure fairness and equity across all instructional areas whether a student is in-class or connected virtually.

    What will band and choir classes look like since wearing masks are required? We are exploring ways to hold these classes outdoors, socially distanced, so masks can be removed for these activities.

    Will sports and other activities occur in the fall? This is still to be determined. We are awaiting guidance from MSHSAA and the health department.

  • COVID TESTING

    What is the procedure for COVID testing? All SLPS employees, onsite partners, and contractors must be tested for COVID-19 prior to reporting to work within 10 days of their report date. Testing will take place at DOH-approved locations at no cost to the individual.

    I was recently tested. Can I submit those results? HR will not accept results directly from staff. Results will be sent directly from the provider (locations will be provided to staff) to HR.

    Where is testing going to take place? The District will provide a list of providers to staff. Testing must be completed at one of those sites.

    Is the COVID testing optional for staff? NO, all staff members must be tested within 10 days of their report date.

    Are bus drivers required to have daily health screenings and COVID testing? We are working with First Student to discuss what is required and will have more information later in July. Our intent at this point is that vendors will follow the same guidelines as staff.

    Will school nurses be trained in administering COVID testing? NO, it is not our intent for any District staff to administer testing.

    Will there be ongoing COVID testing? If I test negative today, I could be positive tomorrow.  At this time, the intent is to provide one initial test.

    If a person tests positive for COVID-19 when will they be able to return to work? Any employee who tests positive will not be allowed to return to work without a release signed by an appropriate health care provider.

    Is it possible to set up a testing site at our schools mid-August for families if they choose to be tested? There are no plans at this time.  

    Why is there a recommendation for staff to be tested prior to returning but not families and vendors? Vendors will test if that becomes a requirement. Families are not in schools every single day. As businesses open up, for example, they have been setting rules for engagement.

  • HEALTH CONCERNS

    What is in place for staff with underlying health issues, are immunosuppressed and/or high-risk due to age or other factors? Accommodations will be made with approval from HR based on recommendations from the staff member’s doctor.

    Some school districts are allowing teachers who have a spouse who is high-risk to work remotely. Will SLPS allow this accommodation? Not at this time.

    What is the policy for staff who are immunocompromised or otherwise at-risk? As with any medical concern, staff should consult with their physician and contact HR to discuss their situation.

  • PARTNERS/VOLUNTEERS

    Any considerations for partners to provide virtual support i.e. online tutoring, reading, mentoring? POSSIBLY, please contact Volunteer and Mentoring Services Director Ryonnel Jackson, Ryonnel.Jackson@slps.org, to discuss. have a lot of community partners that support our students and the work that we do. Will they be allowed in the building? POSSIBLY, partners who provide essential services, such as providing clothing and food to students, may be allowed into the buildings on a limited basis. They must make an appointment first.

    How will this affect the volunteers? At this time, school visits will be limited to District staff, parents, guardians and essential partners. Volunteers may provide assistance in non-school settings, such as outdoor food or supply distributions. Some volunteers may serve essential roles. Contact Mr. Jackson for any questions.

  • IF WE GET A CASE

    What happens when staff or students contract the virus? Do we send everyone home and close the school? Does everyone quarantine for 14 days? We will notify the City of St. Louis Department of Health and follow their guidance. We will also do contact tracing.

    How will we isolate a student with COVID like symptoms? Each school should establish an isolation room to keep an ill student or staff member until they can be picked up or leave.

    Will temperatures be checked at the door each day for all and if they have a temperature, are they sent home? YES, temperatures will be taken upon arrival each day. A temperature does not always indicate COVID. It is just an indicator that something is wrong. We will isolate that student and send him or her back home as quickly as possible. Guidelines are coming from Student Services.

  • CURRICULUM/ACCOUNTABILITY

    Will a survey be provided to staff to answer questions about whether we should implement virtual or in person sessions? NO, both will occur. Parents will complete a survey to indicate what model they want for their child.

    If we develop a 100% full online option could this be offered to: home schoolers, alternative school students, victims of bullying, students with medical conditions? YES, one of the educational options available for the 2020-2021 school year is 100% online using Edmentum. Any parent can select this option for their child.

    How will worksite-based programs be handled? Will students be able to participate in those environments? We are looking into whether students can be involved in internship programs at this time. Normally, these programs happen in January. That will be determined by how this virus proceeds to impact our community. If I were making a decision today, they would not likely take place.

  • CLEANING/CUSTODIANS

    Will the district make sure that every bathroom has adequate soap and each classroom or hallway has hand sanitizer? We have made purchases for all these things and we will warehouse those supplies so that we can quickly get it to schools.

    How will custodial service change? Our custodial team may work on Saturdays or Sundays, or we may possibly have early dismissals to leave time to get buildings ready.

    What is the new cleaning schedule? Will custodians disinfect regularly especially after each class change, banisters and restrooms? Yes, common areas will be cleaned much more regularly that in the past, and our custodial team will have schedules. There will also be regular disinfecting.

    Will teachers be provided hand sanitizer, cleaning products, by the District to keep classrooms sanitized? YES, these items have been ordered for all buildings. 

    Are additional custodians being provided to ensure regular cleaning? We have several vacancies, and we are doing our best to hire, so that we have more staff and better support in buildings. We are working aggressively to get persons hired and in the building.

    Will the custodians be expected to hand wipe the school buildings or will they have a hand held sprayer that will assist them in cleaning? They will have a variety of tools at their disposal, including sprayers.

    What are cleaning guidelines for classrooms that share computers? Will teachers with computer labs be given disinfecting wipes? Supplies will be provided, and students will be responsible for cleaning their work spaces, mouse, chair, etc., after using a computer.

  • BEFORE AND AFTER CARE

    If we are able to follow all District guidelines, are we able to host before and afterschool care and programs? YES, however the providers must follow the same DOH guidelines as staff.

  • EMOTIONAL SUPPORTS

    Has the budget been written to give every building have a full-time social worker and counselor to provide emotional support and response to student trauma? Staff will participate in trauma training in August and September 2020 through the District’s partnerships with Alive and Well and Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis. We also plan to hold trauma workshops for parents/guardians this fall and in spring 2021. The District also has been working with its vendors and partners to provide counseling for students.

    What emotional supports will be put in place for faculty? The District’s healthcare plan includes an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Staff can access the EAP 24/7 for a no-cost, confidential assessment and a referral to licensed professionals and services. 

  • PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

    If numbers spike in the fall, will the schools remain open? We will follow guidelines from the DOH, as we track the progression of the pandemic. One of the reasons we are launching a Blending Learning instructional framework for this school year is that it will give us the ability to quickly pivot to virtual instruction, should schools need to close again.

    Are there any thoughts for when influenza season hits (and a potential second wave of COVID?) How might the District handle both infections at the same time? Would the District have to consider going to all virtual learning under those circumstances? We will follow guidelines from the DOH.

    If a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, will SLPS require vaccinations? How will you handle students with a religious exemption? Vaccinations required (and religious and/or medical exemptions are overseen by the .

    If a vaccine becomes available will it be offered at schools? We don’t have any information on a COVID-19 vaccine at this time.  However, should a vaccine become available, we would anticipate working closely with the Department of Health to ensure access for our students and families.

    How are we planning a new normal post vaccine? Frankly, as challenging and disruptive as the pandemic has been to education, it has forced valuable gains, including the accelerated pace in which virtual instruction and 1:1 technology combined have ushered in a new world of opportunity for students on all grade levels. With the help of our parents and community, we have come light years from where we were on March 17. Hopefully, our “new normal” turns out to be a major milestone in our work to create a system of excellent schools.

  • OTHER

    Will we have an open house for families? Yes, but it will likely be on Zoom.

    Is there discussions on changing the name of Kennard CJA before the new school year? The Board of Education is discussing the policy to name buildings at its meeting on July 14, 2020.

    As a parent first and foremost and also a teacher in SLPS, how am I expected to choose what I believe is best for my child while also being expected to teach in the classroom? We cannot make that decision for you. Only you can decide what is best for you and your family.

    Will teachers have a say in whether they feel safe or not? We are doing everything in our power to focus on safety and make sure we are following guidelines of the DOH. As far as personal feelings of teachers go, each person will have to make decisions for him or herself.

    Will Summer Academy Session III be onsite or virtual? To be determined. We are still assessing and will share that information as soon as we can.

    We received email about PD yesterday for a PD that started Monday. Is that PD also available as a recorded PD? YES. All professional development is being recorded and can be accessed on Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

    Is the Town Hall being recorded for later viewing on the District's website? Our intent with the Town Hall was to provide an opportunity for an open forum for staff questions and answers and that those FAQs would be posted to the District website.

    Will there be flexibility for teachers whose children’s schools have different re-opening plans that interfere with child care? School starts August 24 and as with any other year, there will be conflicts. However, there should be fewer this year as everyone is starting later than normal and our dates are closer together.

    When teachers return what training will we have? In support of students, content specific, instructional technology and social and emotional development training will be at the top of our list for teachers in School Year 2020-2021.

    Doesn’t this demonstrate that the teachers should be on a 26 pay schedule as opposed to the current 22 with escrow? This is something that should be fixed as soon as possible. Teachers will be without a check for 4 weeks. This is a contract question and should be directed to Local 420.

    Has there been anything mentioned regarding hazard pay for staff? This is a contract question and should be directed to Local 420.

    Can we postpone school closings to allow more space to spread the students out for optimum social distancing? Given that our focus is on educating students during a pandemic, talks of school consolidation have been postponed indefinitely. There are no plans to consolidate any schools in SY 2020-2021.