Lutie, set to begin school year Aug. 11, releases plan with new COVID alterations
As summer begins to wind down, many parents are wondering what the new year will look like for students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lutie is the first of Ozark County’s five school districts to release its pandemic-responsive plans for the upcoming school year. The following guidelines were posted to the Lutie website July 17. The Times hopes to have details about Bakersfield, Dora, Gainesville and Thornfield schools’ reopening plans in upcoming editions.
Procedures in case of shutdown
School is scheduled to begin at Lutie on Tuesday, Aug. 11. The district will continue to operate on its usual four-day school week with classes held Tuesday through Friday.
In the event of a school shutdown, Lutie students will use alternative methods of instruction (AMI) packets. Teachers and students will also work through online platforms including Google Classroom, Google Meets and Zoom. Students will be required to have a daily allotted “seat time,” showing that they’re actively engaged in schoolwork for a time each day.
Students who don’t have internet capability will be provided full instruction through AMI packets. Teachers will reach out to students by phone, email or other methods.
Alternative learning, online instruction available
Parents and guardians who are concerned about sending their student to school, or families who have children or other family members inside the home who are considered high risk of contracting and having complications from COVID-19 are welcome to instead utilize fully online instruction at no additional cost.
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade can complete full online instruction through the program MobyMax. Students using this instruction are required to work a set number of minutes each day to ensure they are learning grade-level material and standards they would normally learn during in-person class.
Students in ninth through 12th grade can complete full online instruction through the program Acellus. Parents of high school students are asked to sign up for the Acellus program and commit to a minimum of one quarter. The Acellus program offers the same courses that are offered during in-person classes.
A digital application form is posted on the Lutie website. A paper copy may also be requested by calling Lutie School at 417-273-4150. Parents and students are required to commit to the online programs by Friday, July 31.
Each student may use a school-issued Chromebook computer. Home internet service is not offered by the school, but students are able to sit in the school’s parking lot and use the district’s wifi using their school username and password.
Reduced class sizes
The smallest of Ozark County’s K-12 schools, Lutie typically has smaller class sizes across all grade levels, but this year the school has made additional modifications to further reduce the number of students gathering in any one area.
Additional elementary teachers were hired to allow each grade to have its own separate teacher, unlike in past years when two grades with smaller class sizes were combined in one classroom with one teacher.
In the high school, the school has transitioned from its former schedule of students attending seven different classes each day to a new schedule where students will be enrolled in 10 classes at a time. They will attend five classes each day, with every other day alternating with the other five classes. Each class will be about 85 minutes long.
The new schedule will allow students to have more options for courses while further reducing class sizes. The more popular classes will be split into multiple sections that meet at different times.
Teachers must wear face coverings
Teachers and staff members will be required to wear a mask, face shield or other face covering when inside the Lutie School building. Face shields will be available to any staff member who requests one.
Students are welcome to wear a mask, shield or other face covering, but they will not be required. “Currently it is not recommended for children to wear face coverings. It is very impractical to expect young students to wear masks,” the guidelines say, but then they continue, “If you send your child, of any age, with a mask, they certainly may wear it.”
Increased sanitation, disinfection procedures
Deep cleaning, disinfecting and social distancing measures will be taken at the school to keep surfaces as germ-free as possible.
The entire school campus will be sprayed with an eco-friendly, EPA-approved solution that uses a biostatic process to kill any virus-contaminated surfaces. The deep sanitation spray may be completed up to five additional times over the school year.
Increased cleaning and disinfection measures will be taken to ensure that classrooms, equipment and materials are safe for students to use. Sanitation processes will be implemented multiple times a day for areas that are frequently touched, including doorknobs, handles and other building fixtures, the guidelines say.
The school has also added several additional touch-less hand sanitizer dispensers available to students, faculty and staff throughout the building. Water bottle filling stations have also been added, and reusable water bottles will be provided to students.
Teachers will be trained in the new safety procedures and social distancing requirements, and students will be instructed to wash their hands thoroughly many times a day.
Non-essential visitors will be limited inside the building, and staff members have added more questions to enrollment forms this year, asking what is needed in regard to internet access if another school shutdown or quarantine is ordered.
Social distancing, altered breakfasts and lunches
Social distancing will be implemented as much as possible, Lutie administrators say. When social distancing isn’t feasible, such as in the hallways between classes, students will be strongly encouraged to wear a face covering.
Meal schedules will also be altered to allow for social distancing.
Daily temperature screening
Teachers, staff, students and essential visitors will be screened at the door before they are allowed access inside the building. Anyone who has a temperature of 99.5 degrees or higher will be sent home.
Adults will also be asked to fill out a questionnaire aimed at identifying possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Students who come to the nurse’s office and are not feeling well will have their temperature taken by the school nurse. If the temperature is 99.5 degrees or higher, they will be isolated in an area separate from all others while they wait for their parents or guardians, who will be asked to pick up their child immediately.
Classroom arrangements, no shared supplies
The physical layout of classrooms will also change to allow more space between individual students.
“This might mean desks are arranged in rows facing in a single direction. It might result in reading areas with bean bags, couches or comfy chairs being removed,” the guidelines say. “We want to make every effort to provide distance but not limit students’ ability to interact and communicate with others in the classroom.”
Students will not have school supplies or other communal resources that are shared this year.
Recess, gym classes, art and library
“Our goal is for your student(s) to have as normal of a day as possible while also providing an environment that is as safe as possible,” the guidelines say. “Students will not remain in the same classroom all day but will be able to transition from one class to another.”
Elementary students will be allowed to play outside at recess, but the number of students allowed outside at one time may be limited.
“From all indications, the virus does not live long on outdoor surfaces and in direct sunlight,” the guidelines say.
Students will be encouraged to keep space between them, and all students will be required to wash their hands upon returning to the building after outdoor play.
Students will still be allowed to have “specials,” including art, gym class, music and library access. In some cases, those teachers may hold the special class inside the students’ daily classroom to help reduce the amount of cleaning needed.
Students can check out books in the library like normal.
Normal bus routes, assigned seats
The district will provide bus transportation in a similar fashion as previous years; however, students will have assigned seats. Siblings or students who live in the same household will be required to sit together, and students will be spaced as much as possible from other students.
Students will also be required to sanitize their hands before getting on the bus each time.
Attendance policy changes
School officials emphasize the need to keep sick students at home. Any student who has any of the following symptoms should not attend classes: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches that are not a result of exercise, headache, a new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting.
“If your child is sick, we simply ask that you call us and let us know. Your child will be able to make up the work as provided by the guidelines in each student handbook,” the guidelines say.
If a student is quarantined due to exposure to COVID, the school will provide a laptop computer so the student can complete his or her schoolwork from home.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, he or she will be required to stay home for a minimum of 14 days and will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID test or an antibody test in order to return.
There are no attendance incentives this year. Instead, incentives will be provided for other qualities, including turning in assignments on time, character and disciplinary records.
“While we know that good attendance is essential to academic success, we realize the health and safety of our students will be the first priority,” the guidelines say. “However, this is not a free pass for poor attendance. We will work with any student who is restricted due to quarantine or illness, but repeated absences and neglect of academic work will be addressed as [it has] in the past.”
Virtual open house
Replacing its normal in-person open house, Lutie has organized a virtual open house session for returning students.
Students who are new to the Lutie district, or students who have a new staff member as a teacher will be able to schedule an in-person meeting with their teacher(s) sometime in the first week of August. Details will be distributed to students before the meetings are scheduled. Adults who accompany students to the in-person meeting will have to have their temperature taken before entering the building.
What if a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed in the building?
If a person inside the school building tests positive for COVID, the superintendent will immediately call the Ozark County Health Department to identify the case and work through the recommended procedures.
In the case of a positive case inside the school, unless “extenuating circumstances exist,” the school board will close the school building for a minimum of two to five days. Before reopening, it will work with the Ozark County Health Department to assess factors of the contamination, including likelihood of exposure to employees and students in the building, number of cases in the community and other factors.
Lutie’s superintendent will contact parents, students and employees to notify them that a person inside the building tested positive and courage everyone to work together in the contact-tracing process.
The individual who tests positive will not be identified in communications to the school community at large, but he or she may need to be selectively identified to trace contacts who may be exposed.
While the school building is closed, all school activities will be canceled or rescheduled for a later date when the school has reopened. The cancellation applies to all school events, extra-curriculuar activities, before- and after-school programs and field trips. It applies to events scheduled at the school or at any other location.