RUSD Elementary Schools reopen

March 19, 2021

On Mar. 8 elementary students were able to return to their campuses for the first time in nearly a year since COVID-19 numbers have continued to drop in recent months. Elementary students returned to campus in a hybrid model. 

 The rate of cases needed to be under 25 per every 100,000 residents of the county for two weeks for elementary students to be able to return to campus.  In order for a school to open its plan needed to be approved by the State Board of Education and soon after that approval schools were able to open immediately. Only half of hybrid students are on campus at a time while the rest of the students are online completing work independently. This is phase two learning so students are only in their classrooms one day a week. Once phase three begins, students will be able to attend in-person classes two times a week still with only half the school on campus at a time.

Precautions require that students and staff members wear face coverings and that plexiglass panels surround desks.  Other requirements include symptom checks, social distancing, and fewer students per classroom. The number of volunteers and visitors who are allowed to come on campus is strictly limited. Throughout schools, there are proper hand hygiene, social distancing, and face covering reminders posted. Social distancing is practiced at all times, and there are markers on the ground to help everyone stay 6 feet apart. Classrooms, offices, and high touch surfaces are regularly cleaned. In addition to the plexiglass on student desks, teachers will have a plexiglass shield so everyone can stay safe and socially distanced inside the classroom. students’ temperatures are also taken when they arrive on campus, and then they are able to sanitize their hands and head to class. 

“It was really organized and efficient. I know that RUSD has done everything possible to make it safe for our children to return to the classroom.  I felt as safe as I could, in a pandemic, to have my children return to school,” said parent and math teacher Candice Reed. 

During lunch, meals are provided in a pre-packaged style to achieve social distancing. At every school students must stay six feet apart during lunch, with only a few students sitting at each lunch table. 

During recess, elementary students aren’t able to play as they normally would, however there are socially distanced games for everyone such as Simon Says and other fun activities. At the end of the day, students are dismissed in separate groups so they can stay safe as they leave school campuses. When parents pick up students there are certain areas for them to stand so they can safely pick up their students. Although a return to school for elementary students looks very different from the past, they have been able to go back to campus safely and once again socialize with their classmates. 

I am excited about schools reopening and super excited to see students, but discouraged by how many limitations there are.  The social aspects are so important and vital for healthy relationships and I do not see the limitations allowing for much in the way of meaningful peer-to-peer interactions.  And, frankly, the guidelines, limitations, schedule, and everything can be a bit overwhelming.” said North teacher Christine Schive.

For middle and high schools the cases in the county need to drop to seven cases per 100,000 residents for two weeks before opening schools which occurred on Mar. 16 with a 6.3 case rate. Currently, Mar. 29 is the estimated return date for grades seventh through twelfth. 

In secondary classrooms, I will encounter 3 groups of up to 18 students each day (54 students).  Consequently, I have mixed feelings about reopening schools in our hybrid schedule…I just  found out that in addition to being in school all day they will also be assigned a bunch of additional work in Google Classroom, to do at home. This was a huge disappointment for them and myself,” said Reed.

Katharine Wilson
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