Dysart Unified School District students were set to return to campus in October, but plans have changed.
The district, 15802 N Parkview Place, announced Sept. 1 the new dates for returning to campus for in-person learning have been moved to Sept. 14 and 21, depending on grade level.
In a news release, the district said health benchmark data is "trending in the right direction," and if that continues, DUSD schools will reopen to in-person classes in two phases.
On Sept. 14, kindergarten through fourth-grade, and ninth-grade students will return to campus. The following week, Sept. 21, fifth through eighth, and 10th- through 12th-graders will return.
Students participating in full-time online Dysart iSchool will continue their independent lessons online as long as they are enrolled in iSchool.
Preschoolers returned to campus the week of Aug. 31, and learning labs are in place on-site for students to take part in remote learning, including Exceptional Student Services.
William Coniam posted the DUSD Facebook page: “I for one am happy to hear it. I have been following the numbers pretty closely since March, and I think it’s a good time based on currently available data.”
Others, such as Angel Adrian posted to the social media site saying, “Not a good decision since we haven’t met all benchmarks. Shame on Dysart. We couldn’t wait until October? It’s hard to have school at home but safe.”
Another Facebook comment by Robb Rodriguez stated, “I appreciate Dysart School District giving parents the option to choose. I respect that some parents ‘choose’ to keep their students home. Do your own research to determine if sending your kids back is right for your family.”
With safety the top priority, DUSD has implemented extensive health and safety protocols in place for on-site classes.
“Many of the details for this are listed on our website at Dysart.org/BackToSchool, and this is where the latest details will always be posted and updated,” Director of Communications and Public Relations Renee Ryon said. “Prior to students returning to campus, all staff will be trained on implementation of these protocols, including the proper use of [personal protective equipment] and supplies, cleaning and disinfecting, and other measures.”
Additionally, staff and students must inform the teacher, nurse, site administrator or attendance clerk if they have symptoms, test positive or have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive.
Concerns regarding a positive case occurring on campus will be followed in accordance with state and local laws and regulations.
“Parents will be notified if their child has had direct (within six feet for 10 minutes or longer) or indirect contact with a student or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19,” Ms. Ryon said. “We will maintain confidentiality in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”
Ms. Ryon said cleaning and disinfecting is a group effort, and the district has site staff dedicated to the upkeep of the grounds and buildings. The district also contracts with an outside company for many cleaning services. Additionally, surfaces in high-traffic areas will be disinfected regularly throughout the day.
“Classrooms and offices will be provided with cleaning supplies so that staff and students can use them to disinfect learning spaces and high-touch surfaces in between uses,” Ms. Ryon said. “Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout each site, and all bathrooms will remain open. Students will be reminded to wash hands throughout the school day and will not share school supplies.”
The district plans to serve lunch in the cafeteria with food served in closed containers. No self-serve stations, beverage fountains or open food will be available. Ms. Ryon said cafeteria staff will take steps to speed up lunch lines, use touchless checkout and seek to keep as much distance as possible between students.
“Outdoor seating may be available. Hand sanitizing stations will be placed at each cafeteria. Schools will work to develop procedures and schedules to help minimize the number of students in the cafeteria at one time. Curbside meal pickup will also continue to be available for our online students,” Ms. Ryon explained. “We also just received approval from the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] to continue the free summer meal service for all children 18 and younger — regardless of free and reduced lunch eligibility — through the end of December so we will be providing details about that to our families soon.”
With in-person instruction also comes recess and special classes such as art and music. According to Ms. Ryon, DUSD believes it is important for students to remain active and have outside breaks, so students will continue outdoor recess activities.
“Our playground equipment will be disinfected on a regular basis, and schools may limit the number of students accessing playground equipment at one time,” she said. “Specials classes will continue with enhanced health and cleaning protocols.”
Transportation will come into play too. Ms. Ryon said buses will start their regular routes as in-person classes resume. Details about transportation eligibility, bus stops and times will be posted at Dysart.org/Transportation by the Friday before school begins for each group.
“We are asking parents to prescreen their children for specific symptoms before sending their child to school or the bus stop. Students should not be sent to the bus stop or school if they are exhibiting any of the following symptoms: fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, or chills, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle aches, sore throat, headache, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, or new loss of taste or smell,” Ms. Ryon said.
DUSD requires face coverings on school buses. The buses will be disinfected between each run and also be disinfected and cleaned each evening. Transportation staff will load students from back to front and unload students from front to back to minimize student contact, according to Ms. Ryon.
With a new way in place for schools, DUSD will rely on the guest teacher program for substitutes when teachers fall ill. Additionally this year, Ms. Ryon said the district has assigned one permanent guest teacher to each campus so there is someone on site who can assist with staffing shortages.
All staff must undergo daily temperature checks, report symptoms, and stay home when ill, Ms. Ryon said.
Editor's Note: Jennifer Jimenez can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @SCW_Independent.