Revise Poway Unified School District's Reopening Plan With Stricter Preventative Measures
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The Poway Unified School District has unveiled its plans for the 2020-2021 school year- either full-time on-campus learning or full-time virtual learning.
The current in-person back-to-school plan is unacceptable. There is nearly no difference between this plan's and the pre-COVID school day’s schedules, amount of students present, and class sizes. It is not preventative or strict enough, especially with the current trend of rapidly increasing cases in not only San Diego county, but the United States as a whole.
Distance learning was an exhausting ordeal for many students, and it was much more difficult to learn virtually than in person; a full year as opposed to only a few months of virtual schooling would be extremely detrimental to not only students’ academic progress, but to their mental health. For many, being physically present in a classroom is necessary for a positive, effective learning experience. In addition, virtual learning cannot service economically-challenged and disabled students the way in-person learning does, and thus many students would be forced to choose in-person learning. However, in its current state, the PUSD in-person school plan severely risks students’ physical health.
These changes must be implemented for the safety of our community if students are to attend school in person:
- Require facial mask coverings in public for not only staff, but students
- Only “suggesting” that students wear facial coverings is extremely ineffective. Students who refuse to wear facial coverings will spread the virus amongst their different classes, endangering their peers and their families. Take initiative and make masks mandatory for everyone on campus, and provide masks for those who do not have them.
- Reduce class maximums to 20-25
- 30-40 students in a classroom at a time is too many- there is not enough room in classrooms to socially distance desks 6 feet, and teachers cannot keep track of so many bodies in a room at the same time to make sure they are adhering to rules and guidelines.
- Require physical distancing in addition to masks
- The FAQ states that physical distancing will be “encouraged”, but it is essential that it is mandatory in all situations, from standing in lines to sitting in a classroom to entering/exiting classrooms.
- Keep doors and if possible, windows, open to increase air circulation, or if weather and subject permits, teach classes outside
- Closed, indoor spaces spread the virus, especially if there is little to no air circulation.
- Implement contact tracing
- Sanitize bathrooms
- Pre-COVID, and even in early March, bathrooms in certain high schools were in horrible condition- they were not sanitary, and despite reassurances, there was not even soap. Bathrooms must be kept clean and sanitized to a much higher extent than beforehand.
- Sanitize desks and chairs between classes
- If airing out classrooms and having cleaning staff sanitize classrooms in the time between classes is not possible, require that students clean their desks and chairs either when exiting or entering a classroom.
- Stagger passing period between grade levels in middle and high schools
- The whole student body, over 2000 in high schools, passing through the halls at the same time is a hotspot for virus spread. It is impossible to socially distance, and if not everyone is wearing a mask, it is even more dangerous. Passing period should be staggered between grade levels in order to reduce traffic and make it safer for everyone- students will mostly be in classes with peers of their same grade, and so this would make an effective solution to traffic and distancing.
It is essential that PUSD’s in-person school reopening plans and school day structure are revised- the health and safety of the district’s students and families are greatly at risk if these changes are not made.
We additionally strongly urge you to reconsider a hybrid schedule, especially for high schools. 2000-2500 students on campus at a time, like before, is not a solution.
- Split the school in half, with homework assigned for days not physically present
- Half the school goes for one week, the other half goes for the other week, weekend used to deep clean campus
- Half the school attends Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday used to deep clean, other half attends Thursday and Friday, weekend used to deep clean; daily cleaning after school is also necessary
- Split by grade level, or by types of classes
- Group students with most similar schedules together in the same classes to reduce mixing of groups
- This will help make social distancing possible, help lower class sizes, and create a much more preventative and safe environment for everyone on campus.
- In addition, implement a staggered block schedule to reduce student mixing and traffic in hallways.
- This could be based on the San Diego County Office of Education’s sample school schedule.
PUSD has claimed that a hybrid learning model is too difficult to implement. Yet, safety should come first, no matter how difficult it is to achieve. If a hybrid learning model is truly impossible, then the stricter preventative measures detailed above must be implemented if students are to return to school full-time in person. Positive cases will only increase if masks in PUSD are not mandatory, and if stricter guidelines on class size and capacity are not implemented. Staggering start, end, and passing period times is additionally extremely necessary.
Nevertheless, a hybrid plan is still the safest and most beneficial for students in all aspects, from mental to physical; the current plan is unacceptable.
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