Episode 13: Elementary Back in School
You voiced your questions and concerns about the ASD School Start 2020 plan, and the District heard. Starting this week, ASD will air a twice weekly, pre-recorded Q&A session with a variety of ASD and community member hosts and guests who will take a deep dive into the details of what school will look like this fall. Videos will post by the end of day every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to the start of the school year. Topics will dig into everything from teacher tricks to encourage social distancing among young students (airplane arms!)? to how will my senior be best prepared for post-graduation life during a pandemic?
Send us your questions here! The District wants to hear your thoughts and comments to be considered for inclusion in the interview.
Lisa Miller - Welcome to Airplane Arms, Navigating Back to School. I'm Lisa Miller, I'm a communication specialist with the Anchorage School District, and I'm joined today with Eric Viste, a elementary director for ASD. Hi, Eric, welcome to the show.
Erik Viste - Lisa, thanks for having me.
Lisa Miller - Yeah, absolutely. So we're just days away from our youngest learners returning to school in buildings for the first time in almost 10 months. So, the out the door routine, maybe a bit rusty or totally new to many of our students and families so today we're gonna go over what families need to know to have a successful transition back to in-person learning. So thanks for spending some time with us. Let's start with just literally getting out the door what changes will happen in morning routines to families getting ready at home, to getting students into buildings? Just kind of go over, walk us through a morning.
Erik Viste - Yeah. Well, let's start with the preparation and kind of start with maybe what's more familiar. You know, it's winter time in Alaska, we want our kiddos, our youngest kiddos in our school system be prepared to be outside, so we want parents to be prepared with the equipment and send their student with their outdoor gear, the boots, clothes, winter pants, warm winter coat, hats, gloves, additional shoes for the classrooms. They're anticipate you go outside, your boots are gonna get wet, we want kids to have the warm feet, we also want students something different that we're becoming more familiar with is their masks, so we're asking our students to bring multiple pairs of masks, at least two masks to school, anticipate going outside for recess and it gets cold and we get nasally and we want to have clean masks for kids to exchange out of. We're also wanting our families to practice using the mask this week as we lead up to the 19th, for especially our younger kiddos, being able to be familiar with the mask, it's something that we know that will fit them because they've been practicing with it. And just for a student that it's more comfortable so that'll be new, new on the school list to bring back to school so we're excited about that.
Lisa Miller - And what about, do you talk about transportation and what students, some students will be riding the bus for the first time, how can families prepare for getting on the bus?
Erik Viste - Yeah. So the first thing, if you're wondering where your bus route is on the ASD webpage there's a little yellow box that help me find and you can find your bus stop when you go into the little yellow link and you can plug in your address and you can find your bus stop location where your child can pick on the bus. When the student goes to the bus stop we're gonna expect students to be wearing a mask, so that'll be different, a different routine, as well as getting on the bus, going to an assigned seat on the bus. Students will all have an assigned seat right off the gate, right out of the gate, to be able to go in and then be able to come to school safely. So that'll be different. Once students come off the bus the same practice is once you're on property, when you're in the building, when you're outside at recess, we'll be expecting students to be wearing their masks throughout the school day.
Lisa Miller - Yeah, so recess too, even when they're outside, waiting at the bus, just mask up, right?
Erik Viste - Just mask up, yup yup.
Lisa Miller - Yup. What about before they leave the house? I know we're really putting, we've talked about keep ASD symptom-free so what should families be doing at home before they even send the kiddos out to school?
Erik Viste - Yeah, we always want families to monitor their child and to check to see whether they're well enough to come to school and this year is a particular important year for families to be doing that. There's three basic questions that we're asking families to check in and monitor their students. The first question really has to do is, has the child been tested positive for COVID? Or does identified as having COVID within the last 10 days? Has the child demonstrated symptoms, COVID symptoms within the last 24 hours? And then the last question really is, has there been a close contact for the student within the last 14 days? If any of those answers are yes, we're asking parents to help us keep ASD symptom-free by keeping your son or daughter home, call the office, call the nurse, let your teacher know what's happening. And we really want this reopening to be successful and we really need everybody's support in doing so. So monitor your child, monitor their symptoms and communicate with the school.
Lisa Miller - Okay. And this is the the actual poster is available on the ASD website. So families wanna go to asdk12.org and download this. You can print it off, stick it on the fridge and just have it as a reminder.
Erik Viste - Exactly. And you're in your school nurse is a wonderful resource. I mean, if you ever have a question the straight line is really call the school and talk to the school nurse. If you're having trouble with not getting through the website or anything, or if you just wanna talk to somebody, really, really good resource.
Lisa Miller - Okay, so once they've done their health screening they're good to go, families who aren't using buses for transportation. Talk to me about drop-off and how that will look different.
Erik Viste - Yup. Well, and the drop-off is gonna look a little bit different at every school 'cause the physical makeup of the buildings most all are different. What parents should expect is that if you're dropping off your son or daughter in the bus stop, you wanna plan to stay in the car. Each school will have their bus and drop off location and you can find those plans either by contacting the school or through the health and safety plans that are posted on the website. And go through the bus or wait for your turn, have your child on the passenger side of the car generally so that they can get out on the curb side, to be able to get in there and wait till you're being called up to let your child out. I anticipate, we all anticipate the first week to be kind of a work through process. So be patient, be graceful. We want kids Bayer* there, we want it to be safe. If you're a walker, when you're walking your child to the school, the school will have locations for the students to be assembling in their cohort, in their classroom cohorts so again contact the teacher, contact your school to find out where that is for the first day of school and for, moving forward.
Lisa Miller - Yep, and schools send direct messages to parents and their email. So make sure that you have, your email, your contact details up to date, right?
Erik Viste - Total emergency contact. Again, every year we want that, and this year is essentially important because we do want the emergency contacts updated. A lot of times schools will use communication through the email that parents provide us, and so we wanna make sure that's updated, as well as an accurate phone number for both yourself as a parent or guardian and also any sort of emergency context. So that emergency contact call the school to make sure that that that's current.
Lisa Miller - You can call your school directly and just do it over the phone or?
Erik Viste - Yup yes yup
Lisa Miller - Okay. That's easy enough.
Erik Viste - And then they'll guide you through what to do.
Lisa Miller - Okay, great. What about once they're at school, how will recess and lunch look different for the young students returning?
Erik Viste - Yup. Recess, we'll start with recess. The big difference is really gonna be wearing the mask. That'll be a little bit getting to use to for kids so students should be having the understanding that that's gonna be an expectation while going to school. The lunch pieces will look a lot different too because we're removing more to keeping kids in our cohorts, and so with that we'll be wanting to have and generally a meal in the classroom type model, and so students won't be large assembly in the cafeteria where there's lots and lots of students in there, we'll be wanting to keep the groups smaller and more distancing with kiddos. So we'll be practicing what we're calling A Meal In The Classroom model. And so the beautiful thing that the district's been able to do is for those schools that have had meal services in the past, will be continuing to have meal services this year. For all students, the meals will be free. So meal service through the Anchorage School District at those sites that are providing it will be free for all students, and I think that's a fantastic thing. The same for breakfast, so if your school had a breakfast program last year, they will have a breakfast program this year and that breakfast program will be free for all students as well. Now, if you're a parent or guardian that is choosing to send your child with a cold lunch, which is fine, please don't send anything that needs to be microwaved or heated, because those won't be accessible for our students so keep that in mind when you're planning on what to send, send your child with.
Lisa Miller - Okay, that's great to know, that's one less thing for families to think about getting out the door. Finally, what about the students who are in elementary but a little older that three to six group, what do we need to see happen in order to get them back into buildings?
Erik Viste - Yeah, well the schools have been working on the safety plans. They've been working on their PPE, they've been working on the equipment so the schools are ready to receive our students here coming up next week. What we wanna see is we just wanna see the trends going in the same direction that they're going. Our teachers are excited, our staff are excited, our cafeteria managers are excited, our bus drivers are excited, everyone's excited to see students back in the building. And so we really need the community to support our efforts, and to support wanting to see students back in it and keep doing what we're doing. Everything's moving in the right direction, and we we're very, very excited for next Tuesday.
Lisa Miller - Yup, well, Eric, thank you so much for joining us. Is there anything else that you wanted to add in?
Erik Viste - No, I just appreciate all our teachers, I appreciate all of our teacher's support staff, our TAs, everyone, even in our younger kiddos with our students that are now returning, we still feel very strongly that our young kiddos and the teachers that have been working with them have been doing an exceptional job through all this time, and we're just very, very happy with what we've been doing.
Lisa Miller - Yeah, thanks Eric. And thank you for joining us for another episode of Airplane Arms, Navigating Back To School. All of the information that we went over in this episode can be found at asdk12.org/backtoschool.