GILFORD — Students in the local school system will be able to attend classes full-time starting in early October under a plan being proposed by the district’s superintendent.
Kirk Beitler is proposing a phased-in approach to reopening school, according to an outline of his recommendations that he is scheduled to present to the Gilford School Board on Tuesday. The meeting is set to take place in the Gilford High School auditorium starting at 6 p.m.
According to a recap of the recommendations:
• Parents will have the option of having their children in school five days a week, or continue with remote instruction.
• Those who receive in-class instruction will ease into a full-time classroom schedule during the first four weeks.
• Students engaged in remote learning will receive their instruction from Gilford teachers.
• Parents will be required to screen their children’s health every day before they leave for school.
• Students will be required to wear masks whenever they are in a school building and on buses.
• Students will be required to social-distance by at least 3 feet, and preferably 6 feet.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the plan at this evening’s meeting, but it is unclear from the agenda whether the board will take any action at that time.
About 1,100 students are enrolled in the kindergarten-through-12th-grade system.
The plan is the product of the recommendations offered by a 31-member task force made up of teachers, school administrators, counselors, and school nurses. Some members are also parents with children in the district.
In laying out the plan, Beitler noted that the precautions are designed to reduce the likelihood of the coronavirus being spread in the district’s three schools, but the possibility of infection cannot be ruled out.
“Reopening school scenarios are intended to mitigate, not eliminate, risk. No single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Beitler’s proposal states.
The plan includes results of a survey taken earlier this summer among parents, students as well as teachers and other staff members.
A majority of families said they preferred a return to school full-time, while about one-quarter said they would prefer alternating between in-class instruction and remote learning — the so-called hybrid model. Staff members, on the other hand, were split over the in-person, hybrid, or enhanced remote learning options, with the preference for the in-person model declining at higher grade levels. Also, between 79 and 86 percent of staff members — depending on which building they work in — said they were either very or somewhat concerned about the schools going to a full-opening mode.
The superintendent said the plan includes procedures to follow if one or more of the schools had to close because of an infection in the school or if there were a spike in cases locally or statewide.
The plan emphasizes it is compulsory that students and teachers wear masks.
“This is not negotiable,” Beitler said.
All students will have assigned times when they can remove their masks. Students who disobey the mask requirement will be disciplined, the plan states.
Students will also be required to have their face masks on while they are on the school bus. Bus capacity will be limited to 28 students, which will necessitate double runs in some cases. Parents who are able to drive their children to and from school are encouraged to do so.
Athletic teams are due to begin practicing on Sept. 8, but the plan makes no mention of what game schedules might look like. The fall high school musical would be postponed until spring under the plan. The opportunity for students to participate in other extracurricular activities is still undetermined.