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Reconnect Webster 2020: Webster Parish School Board’s plan for schools in the fall

File Photo | Webster Parish School Board Office

The Webster Parish School Board has announced a comprehensive plan titled Reconnect Webster to give students and parents a better idea of what the education experience will look like in the fall. Laid out inside the 38 page document are answers to a lot of questions some parents may have been wondering about how our schools plan to tackle opening up this Fall and the unprecedented challenges that it brings with it.

While this article’s intent is to summarize this extensive document, it is recommended that any parent of a student in Webster Parish read this plan, as it contains answers to many questions as well as resources designed to help families adapt to these changes in the learning experience.  

“Reconnect Webster 2020 is a comprehensive plan that serves as a guide for the general operation of our schools as well as an explanation for how our diverse curricula will be presented to our students. It is an open ended document that is designed to be altered as circumstances change or new directives are given. During planning, no detail was considered too small, and I am convinced Reconnect Webster 2020 will serve as an outstanding guide for ALL of our stakeholders,” said Superintendent Johnny Rowland.

In the days to come, we will continue to face obstacles and challenges, but we are a strong and resilient community. If we all work together, we may find that in the end we are all the better for it!”

Since the outlook for COVID-19 is still uncertain, Reconnect Webster provides a look into multiple possibilities about how schools will reopen, with the options being a more Traditional School Setting, 100% Distance Learning, or a Hybrid of the two. 

Traditional School Setting: “If students return to our campuses in the fall for a traditional start to school, the in-person learning opportunities will look and be different. When students come to school, they will receive instruction that is most effectively delivered in an in-person environment while still accessing online resources through Google Classroom or Edgenuity. In-person time with students will include whole class instruction and focused instruction that is directly connected to student needs. Some examples include: concept development, small group instruction (literacy and math), hands on application of learning (Career Technical Education experiences), progress monitoring, and curriculum assessments,” the plan reads.

Hybrid School Setting: “If public health guidelines limit the number of students allowed on our campuses, Webster Parish will implement a hybrid learning model. Hybrid learning, a combination of in-person and distance learning, will not re-create the traditional classroom experience and will likely look quite different. Therefore, tools and systems will be in place to support teachers and staff across the district to meet the needs of all students,” the plan reads.

100% Distance Learning: “In the event of extended school closures during the 20-21 school year, Webster Parish will transition to 100% distance learning. Webster TechConnect – 100% Virtual Option Webster Parish students will have the option to enroll in our Webster Tech Connect virtual program. The program will be open to all Webster Parish students grade K-12,” the plan reads.

Regardless of which option seems most pertinent come fall, schools campuses are not going to go back to the way they were before the pandemic. Classroom sizes will be limited depending on what phase of reopening Louisiana is in at the time, those being 10, 25, and 50 for Phases 1, 2, and 3 respectively. When it comes to transportation, buses will also have reduced occupancy, those being 25%, 50%, and 75% occupancy for Phases 1, 2, and 3 respectively. 

Both students and staff will be symptom and temperature checked before entering the schools, and socially distancing is going to be promoted. In order to maintain a safe and healthy atmosphere for kids, hand sanitizing stations will be provided in classrooms and other areas, multi-touch surfaces such as desks will be routinely sanitized, and all staff and students grade 3 and above are required to wear masks on school buses and on school grounds.

Registration for the 20-21 school year will take place entirely online not only for convenience but also for an added safety measure of being contact free.

“In an effort to adhere to the CDC Guidelines for Social Distancing due to Covid-19, the Webster Parish School System will be registering students completely online. The Online Registration System is a paperless registration and it is user friendly and convenient. It is designed to be a contact-free process for registering your students,” the plan reads.

In reference to the heightened standards of sanitation, the School Board’s plan reads, “Environmental cleaning of all areas will be of high importance, but cleaning and disinfection for high-touch areas will be of most importance. We will use various cleaners and disinfectants to achieve this goal, all with a COVID-19 kill claim. Teachers will be supplied with their own classroom sprayer of disinfectant. 

Classrooms will also be provided tubs of wipes to disinfect desktops and other high-touch areas between groups of students. Custodians will clean and disinfect all high-touch areas and restrooms multiple times per day as determined necessary by student traffic. All cleaning and disinfection by custodians will be documented as it is completed. There will be a school administrator assigned to directly supervise the custodians responsible for cleaning. A summer in-service on cleaning and disinfection of the schools will be held for custodians and the administrator.”

Given the fact that even a traditional return to school would still include more reliance on online work than in the past, the WPSB has created a plan in order to ensure that all students have the technology and internet connectivity that they need. 

“There is a need for devices to support online learning throughout the district so we have developed a 1-to-1 device deployment plan to loan out devices to students that are enrolled in the WPS system during the new school year,” the plan reads.

“Through the survey conducted of the households in our district, it showed us that we have a large number of households that do not currently have internet access. The plan is to address this issue using a multifaceted approach with diverse solutions. 

These solutions include expanding Wi-Fi out from our schools to the surrounding school parking lots to provide drive up or walk up internet access to district owned devices, provide internet access to some district owned buses that can be strategically parked in areas with a high density of households without internet access, weatherproof devices to deploy in areas such as fire stations where drive up service could be beneficial, and various vendor hotspot solutions that can provide internet access to the household.

For those households that an internet solution cannot be achieved, we have also planned for a solution where we can load up flash drives with preloaded lessons, videos, and other educational content.”

Another focus when adapting to this school year’s challenges is promoting a family engagement in their child’s education as well. This will be done through a variety of platforms, and the WPSB has communicated that staff members and parents can be collaborative when it comes to their child’s learning experience.

“School staff members and parents can collaborate to set learning expectations. This is especially important in the middle and high school grades when students have multiple classes and multiple teachers. If staff members are using different apps and tools to engage families and each staff member has different expectations for students, it can quickly get overwhelming for parents and students. Imagine that a parent has two children, each with six different teachers who have six different ways to access information. This can create deep frustration for students and parents that is hard to overcome,” the plan reads.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact your school or the district office. School contact information can be found on the Schools tab on the parish website. You may reach the district office by calling (318) 377-7052 or access the Webster Parish Schools website at www.websterpsb.org.

In the case of cafeteria’s not being able to fully handle the new distancing needs of its students, the WPSB has created a Meals in Classrooms plan in order to ensure that everyone continues to have their nutritional needs met.

“In the event that we are not allowed to operate a traditional school cafeteria, “Meals in the Classroom” will be implemented at all schools in the district. Fortunately, WPSB had sites from the previous school year who were already implementing “Breakfast in the Classroom,” so the framework is in place to modify it to meet the nutritional needs of all students should we need to reduce the number of students in the regular cafeteria setting,” the plan reads.

“The SFS Department would make sure that all staff is given appropriate professional development prior to the beginning of the school year as to how the program will work and the expectations of all involved. In the event that schools are closed, we will implement the “Grab and Go” feeding program throughout the district.

Our goal is to make the School Food Service program as smooth and seamless as possible. As always, the nutritional needs of all students will remain a top priority of the WPSB School Food Service Department.”

Above is just some of what was addressed in the Webster Parish School Boards’ comprehensive Reconnect Webster plan. Once again, it is highly recommended that any parent of a student in the Parish read this plan, as it goes into detail on how they plan to address various challenges that may present themselves during this school year. The full document can be found here