In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockwood announced in August that it would begin the 2020-21 school year online; however, it was announced on Sept. 15 that the district would be allowing preschoolers and K-2 students to resume in-person learning on Sept. 30.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles said that the decision was based on recommendations from local and state officials.
“Throughout this time we have been working with a number of pediatricians and local and regional medical health professionals including the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, and recently Sam Page announced his recommendation to get our early learners back into our school buildings,” Miles said.
Reactions to the decision have been a mixture of concern and excitement from parents and students alike, but mother of elementary schoolers grades first and third, Shanika Gunderson, said that the return to in-person school sessions is an essential step that needs to be taken as soon as it is safe to do so.
“It is important for these younger kids to learn in-person. They do not do well with online learning, especially with navigating the technical side of the online learning platforms. If they have trouble connecting, they’re not able to troubleshoot to figure it out. And with their short attention span, sitting in front of a screen for six hours a day is too long. We need to take the precautions for safety, but it’s time to start taking the appropriate steps to get all the kids back to in-person learning,” Gunderson said.
With the return to the in-person classroom setting, students and staff will be taking new precautions in order to limit the amount of potential exposure to the virus to a minimum. In addition to masks, which everyone will be required to wear throughout the school day, Uthoff Valley teacher Liz Schenck said that attempts to social distance and sanitize will be made most effective through the use of cohort groups.
“In the classroom we will space children out and use cohort groups. There will be stickers on the floor or on carpet spots to insure social distancing, and arrows showing the flow of traffic. Frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer will be placed throughout the room and I will spray and disinfect daily and wash manipulatives as needed,” Schenck said.
Despite the district’s decision to return kindergarten through second grade students to in-person classes, they are still offering the option for remote learning. Miles said that they will honor any family’s decision to remain online and are working to make it an effective process.
“Some students will want to remain in the remote learning environment and we will honor that decision as well. We have some rapid response teams that have been looking at what that structure is going to look like, which might look a little bit different than what it has with everyone within a remote environment,” Miles said.
After the initial return of the kindergarten through second grade students, Miles said that he is hopeful to soon be sending back third through fifth graders.
“We will likely begin the transition for grades three through five within the next one to two weeks beyond Sept. 30; however, we are still working on that timeline. And as we look at grades six through 12 we are still examining that decision making time frame as well,” Miles said.