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Schools say most kids here will return to their classrooms in August


Nearly 90 percent of Indian River County’s 17,000 students are expected to return to their classrooms on Aug. 10 despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, while the other 10 percent opt for virtual schooling, according to school officials.

Free cloth face coverings and disposable face masks will be provided to all students, Schools Superintendent David Moore said Friday while presenting the latest plans for reopening schools.

“Face coverings should be worn when social distancing is not possible,” Moore said during a July 10 Facebook live presentation.

Teachers will be equipped with plastic face shields so they can communicate safely and effectively with students, Moore said.

The first eight days of the school year will be used to teach students the new health and safety procedures, monitor how the new system is working and make adjustments as problems arise, Moore said.

A team of local pediatricians was scheduled to meet with school district officials Wednesday to critique the procedures for handling students who present COVID-19 symptoms, Moore said.

The school district also extended the deadline until Wednesday for students to opt into the semester-long Indian River Virtual School or the nine-week-long Transitional Distance Learning model.

Students who miss the July 15 deadline will be scheduled to return to their traditional school, Moore said.

So far, 3,502 students have submitted their selections, with 2,033, or about 58 percent, choosing to return to their traditional school, Moore said.

Another 744, or slightly more than 21 percent, chose the Transitional Distance Learning model, Moore said. The other 725, or just under 21 percent, picked Indian River Virtual School.

“Using that data, we’re predicting right now, between 85 and 90 percent of our students will return to the traditional model,” Moore said. “The other 10 percent will be within one of those two [virtual] models.”

Once school opens, students and school employees will be screened for fever and COVID-19 symptoms every day when entering campus, Moore said.

Students presenting symptoms of COVID-19 will be escorted by a health assistant to an isolation room for additional temperature and symptom checks, Moore said.

The parents will be called to pick up the student and take them for a COVID-19 test, Moore said.

If the test comes back positive, the state Health Department will establish a quarantine period for the student and undertake contact tracing, Moore said. The student can return to school after completing the quarantine period and testing negative for the virus.

Anyone who spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of a student who tested positive for COVID-19 positive will also be quarantined for several days, Moore said.

School district personnel will be assigned to schools to help supervise students as they arrive, move between classes, pick up lunch in the cafeteria and depart school, Moore said.

“This is going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Moore said. “With that additional supervision, we will ensure we are maximizing the space to keep students spread out.”

Drop-off and pick-up times will be extended to keep students apart, Moore said. Student movement on campus will be kept to a minimum.

Some furniture is being removed from classrooms so desks can be positioned further apart, Moore said. Students will constantly be reminded to wash and/or sanitize their hands and stay 6 feet apart.

 New student identification cards will enable students to pay for lunch without touching a keypad, Moore said. Lunch schedules will also be stretched out to keep students apart.

The school district is still working out safety plans for providing extracurricular activities, Moore said. The district will rely on the Florida High School Athletic Association for guidance on resuming sports.