With two more covid cases in district, Dora stays flexible
As the number of covid-19 cases increases in the county – and after two cases were confirmed in its district Friday, bringing its total to three for the school year – Dora School is finding that, so far at least, flexibility is the key to continued in-place learning.
“We’re always adjusting to make things better,” superintendent Dr. Allen Woods said Monday. “Right now, we’re doing OK.”
The district began the school year Aug. 24 at level 1, the lowest stage of its 3-level covid-aware reopening plan, with students returning to school but doing mostly online classes with a teacher helping them. “But that wasn’t as effective as we thought it should be,” Woods said.
In response, the school transitioned to a different model, with teachers rotating in and out of core-curriculum classrooms where, for the most part, students stay put. The plan means students don’t crowd into hallways at class-changing times.
“We don’t have a switch bell schedule now,” Woods said. “The kids aren’t in the hallway. I’ve even told the teachers, ‘Take them outside for a walk. They need that time because they’re spending so much time cooped up in their classroom.’”
With the school now at level 2 of its reopening plan, high school students and pre-schoolers are eating meals in their classrooms; widely spaced elementary students are eating in the cafeteria.
Like other Ozark County schools impacted by the current pandemic, Dora’s main goal “is to safely keep the school open,” Woods said, although he’s realistic about meeting that goal. “I’m sure there will probably come a time when we feel like we have to shut down, but for now, this is working.”
He expects the biggest obstacle to in-school learning will happen “when we have multiple teachers or staff members or bus drivers testing positive.”
The school has grouped its students into cohorts, so that, when a positive case is confirmed, fewer students have to be quarantined than if the school maintained regular grade-level groupings. “For instance, we had two positive cases Friday, and because we have the cohorts, only 16 to 17 people have to be quarantined now,” he said.
One measure the district has had to take in response to the pandemic is to eliminate its GATE after-school program, which was a boon to parents who could pick up their children at the school as late as 5 p.m. For now, GATE has been suspended because students from different grades and cohorts would be intermingled during the after-school time, with no feasible way to keep the cohorts distanced, Woods said.
“We know it’s disappointing to the parents, but it’s necessary while we’re getting through this thing,” he said.