What a crazy year to be in education! In years past, I know we have said there is no tired like back to school teacher tired. However, this year’s back to school season puts any previous ones to shame in my book. We have had to think about every possible scenario, come up with a plan, think of all scenarios with that plan, then make edits to our plans, and the cycle continues.
When a year adds as many new buzzwords as this year has, then you know it can go in the books as a stressful year.
Welcome to Administration, Crystal
I picked one heck of a year to move into administration as we take on all the challenges of COVID at school. I have found myself constantly thinking about things we have not thought about or changes we may need to make in order to keep our students and staff safe this year.
I think we have done a pretty good job as an admin team and school in coming up with some procedures for the different parts of the school day to ensure everyone is safe and socially distanced throughout the day.
I want to take some time to break down some of the things we are doing this year in case it can help other schools as they plan or replan some of their procedures for the year.
Our School PBIS
One of the first things I wanted to think about as we prepared for the new school year was the procedures and expectations we have for our students. We have PBIS matrixes spread throughout our school and have created lesson plans and PBIS videos that we use with our students each year. This year, those plans look a little different as we have changed our procedures for, well, practically everything.
We have broken down our PBIS plan by three key goals for students: Be Positive, Be Respectful, & Be Responsible. In our matrixes, we have broken down what these look like in the different parts of the school. This year, we have added more guidelines for keeping hands to selves, washing hands, using hand sanitizer, space between students and peers at all times, respecting other’s personal space, and respecting those who choose to wear masks and/or shields.
If you are interested in purchasing the PBIS matrixes already made for each area of the school, you can find those here.
Schoolwide Seating Chart
Contact tracing can be a nightmare with a school full of children, so we came up with a plan for a schoolwide seating chart. With our seating chart, the students sit beside the same two students in every class, every room they enter, every line they walk in, and all the in-between. By having this set up, we automatically know the students who could be possible direct contacts and need to quarantine in the case of a positive test result. We have done our best to implement social distancing procedures throughout the school to avoid having direct contacts; however, this helps us err on the side of caution with contact tracing.
We also have all classrooms mirroring each other with the exact same set-up. This helps ensure the students are sitting beside the same students in all directions for each class.
In order to keep students socially distanced in the cafeteria, we have placed smiley faces on every other seat. When students enter the cafeteria at any point in the day, they are to sit on a smiley face. We have arranged it so that there are smaller numbers of classes in the cafeteria at a time to allow for fewer students to be able to sit in every other seat. We do have some cases where students have to sit beside one another, but we try to make it to where it’s siblings who are seated right beside each other if necessary.
We also have students seated in their seating charts at lunch to be beside the same students they are beside all day. Again, this is to help with contact tracing as needed.
We have set it up to where teachers can send two students to the media center at a time throughout the day. So far, this has not presented an issue for too many students being in the media center at a time, but we do have a plan to change it to one student at a time if it becomes necessary.
When students return their books, we have a “Quarantine Cart” for the books to sit for 48 hours before being placed back on the shelves for checkout. Research has shown that 48 hours plus some wiping down is enough time, so we are going with that. We have three different carts that we switch out each day for new books then the books on the cart can be put away after the 48 hours are up.
We have separated our playground into 5 sections, and each day a class goes to a different section. They rotate sections each day so the students get to play on the different equipment. This helps avoid classes intermingling with each other and, once again, helps us in the case of contract tracing.
Recess is one of the only areas in the school where social distancing is not 100% enforced. We’ve told students to be mindful of their space and to try to stay 6 feet from one another, but the students are not out there longer than 15 minutes and are not up close during this time.
We have very, and I mean very, set bathroom times for each class. The teachers have to go at their designated times because we have a set cleaning schedule for our custodians to get in and clean the bathrooms between the breaks. It. Is. A. Lot! Oddly enough, this was probably the hardest part of our day to figure out. In addition to the set bathroom schedule, teachers are also only allowing three students in the restrooms at a time to help with social distancing.
We have also set up a hand sanitizing station outside of the restrooms, and it’s a part of our PBIS for students to sanitize before entering the restroom, to wash their hands before exiting, and then for them to sanitize again once out the restroom. This seems like a lot, but we cannot clean between each student entering and exiting and want to be sure to have it left as clean as possible.
We also closed down all of our water fountains and got a touchless bottle filling station for students to use during the day. We have gotten donated water bottles in order to provide each student with a water bottle.
While in the hall, students are to stand two to three tiles apart whenever possible. We have tried to make the halls clear in order to allow classes to be spaced out; however, we all know this is not feasible at all times.
Car Rider Bell
Instead of the bell ringing and all car riders being dismissed, we have started dismissing car riders by grade level. We do not have an abundance of car riders at our school, so you may want to dismiss by team if you are a larger school with a lot of car riders. Each grade level has a set location where they sit and wait (on smiley faces spread apart), and we have staff out at the car pickup with radios to call for students to come out. Once called, the students quickly make their way out to their car. Once again, we are a smaller school with a low amount of car riders, so this procedure works for us. It would be more difficult at a larger school.
Bus dismissal was another trial and error procedure for us. We tried a few different protocols before finding the one that works best for us. I will tell you the two top procedures for us in case the best one for us isn’t feasible for your school.
One procedure we tried was calling one bus at a time. This helped keep the numbers of students exiting the rooms at one time minimal; however, we had students miss their bus being called on several occasions. Having a bus come back to pick up a student is quite the ordeal and can put us way behind schedule getting dismissed. Because of this, we switched over to calling one classroom at a time to come to buses. We call classrooms on both sides of the hall together, so it is two classes dismissing at a time. Once called, the teachers line the students up, wait for it, in their assigned order and walk them to buses. This keeps students from intermingling and is still a smaller number of students in the hall at a time.
We’ve Got This!
We are all in this together! I hope this breakdown of some of the strategies we are implementing is helpful as you plan and replan procedures for this year. Know that there is going to be a lot of trial and error as we go through this year. If there was ever a time to extend grace, it’s now.
Our school focus this year is to continually give grace. Parents need grace as they make decisions for their children and families on whether virtual learning or traditional school is the best choice. Students need grace as they try to cope with all of the new and scary that we are facing and try to be a good student in school when that may not be their main focus. Other teachers and staff need grace as they deal with the stress, extra pressure, and the scariness of COVID themselves. School leaders need grace as they make decisions for the schools that have a high impact on everyone and will never please everyone. YOU need grace as you go through this yourself: the new, the stress, the anxiety, and the extra workload. Whatever you do, please do not be too hard on yourself as you tread this new territory.
We Can Do This!!
Please reach out to me if there is ever anything I can do to help! ❤️