Shelby County Schools reopen plan includes face mask requirement

Shelby County Schools released its complete reopen plan for the 2020-2021 school year on July 16, further detailing what students and parents can expect, including a new requirement regarding face masks in schools.

The updated plan comes nearly a week after the Shelby County Board of Education approved a revised calendar with a later start date of Aug. 13 for students and the first set of reopening plans was shared. It also comes a day after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide order requiring everyone to wear a mask in public until the Safer at Home order expires on July 31.

“Covering your mouth and nose with a face mask/covering while within Shelby County Schools will be required,” the SCS Reopen Plan reads. “Face masks/coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. The CDC recommends that people wear face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Exceptions to the face mask requirement will be made for any person with a medical condition that prevents him or her from wearing a facial covering; any person who is seeking to communicate with another person where the ability to see the other person’s mouth is essential for communication, such as when the other person has a hearing impairment; or any person who is consuming food or drink.

Shelby County Schools will offer traditional, on-campus learning and remote, at-home learning options for students this year.

Students who opt for on-campus learning will report to their school campuses daily, where in-person instruction will be delivered by teachers.

Classrooms will be socially distanced as much as possible, and strategies will be implemented to mitigate the spread of germs.

Schools will not conduct temperature checks on all students. The district is asking parents to monitor the health of their students and watch for signs of COVID-19.

If a student displays any symptoms of COVID-19, he or she should stay home from school and participate via short-term eLearning.

If a student has to be out due to quarantine or if a campus has to temporarily close due to COVID-19, the student will switch to short-term eLearning and return to campus when healthy.

Any students who must switch to eLearning will remain in the same class with the same teachers, participate virtually (assignments graded) and return to school when they are healthy or when school reopens, depending on the situation.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to be the most challenging and compelling issue that we have dealt with in modern history,” Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks wrote in a letter announcing the reopen plan’s release. “Accordingly, it has created a dynamic of ambiguity, uncertainty and constant change. That withstanding, we will welcome our students back and continue to provide a quality education.”

A remote learning option will be available for students who choose not to return to campus for in-person instruction.

These students will participate in all courses in a virtual format (online using ALSDE-approved curriculum).

They may still participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, but may only attend practices before or after school.

Students who have a specific learning plan will still receive instructional accommodations in on-campus and remote learning environments.

The deadline for enrollment in the Remote Instructional Option is Monday, July 27.

The Remote Commitment Form can be found at Shelbyed.k12.al.us.

In his letter, Brooks wrote the district is planning to open schools in a traditional manner, “Back Together,” but will lean heavily on guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health with decisions related to the virus outbreak.

“As such, if health concerns continue to rise prior to the first day of school, we could likely start the school year in the second phase of our plan, ‘Cautious Together,’” Brooks wrote. “This health crisis continues to be a moving target and we have to be flexible in order to provide a safe learning environment.”

Below is a summary of each school operating status phase:

  • Back Together welcomes students back to a new school year. Recommendations will be implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Cautious Together will be implemented when the community spread of COVID-19 is at a higher risk as outlined by the ADPH and the CDC. Enhanced measures will be implemented to mitigate the spread.
  • eLearning Together would implement eLearning for all students when schools are closed temporarily based on guidance from the ADPH and or an order is issued by the governor.

For more information on operating status recommendations for each school status category, Back Together, Cautious Together and eLearning Together, go to Shelbyed.k12.al.us and click on the “Shelby County Schools Reopen Plan for 2020-2021” button near the top of the page.

“Many of you continue to raise critical questions about reopening and we appreciate your patience as our team navigates uncharted waters,” Brooks wrote. “While our plan is released, there are still matters related to opening that cannot be answered at this time. Both the ALSDE-purchased learning management system, Schoology, and state-purchased curriculum, Schools PLP, were made available within the last week. Our instructional team is reviewing these products, as well as our current programs, to determine what will best fit the needs of our students. The goal is to provide the most rigorous learning platform.”