The Mena Public Schools Bearcats Ready for Learning Plan (Revised July 22, 2020)
Various committees of the Mena School District have met in the last 10 days to prepare a plan to release to parents so they can make informed choices for their child(ren)’s education during the upcoming school year.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to shut down in mid-March but they will be required to reopen no later than August 24th, 2020. There are many things out of the District’s control during this difficult time, but the school’s mission is that Mena Public Schools will provide the same high-quality education it always has both traditionally at school and at home.
Listed here is information about the District’s plan related to COVID-19 along with choices for parents with questions and answers. Further information may be requested by calling the school or emailing MenaCOVIDQuestions@menaschools.org.
Choices for Learning
For parents of students at Mena Public Schools, there will be three choices for continuing your student’s education: Traditional Learning, Blended Learning (a mix of virtual and traditional education), and Polk County Virtual Academy.
Choice 1: Traditional Learning
Selecting Traditional Learning means that your child(ren) will be learning in a school setting that is familiar and somewhat normal with some adjustments that are detailed in the Q & A section below. They will be issued a school owned Chromebook with an online curriculum (Edmentum) taught by their teacher in the traditional face-to-face format. The online curriculum is the backup plan in the case of a school closing or if your child(ren) are quarantined due to COVID-19.
If you are a parent who wants the most normalcy for your child(ren), you would want to make this choice.
Choice 2: Blended Learning
Selecting Blended Learning means that your child(ren) will be learning at home with the option of returning to school when you deem that it is safe. It is structured to match the traditional school day to ease the transition back into the traditional classroom. There are more details in the Q & A section below. If requested, your child(ren) will be issued a school owned Chromebook with an online curriculum (Edmentum) taught by their teacher in an online format. The online curriculum is the same curriculum the students who are being taught traditionally will receive, only with less face-to-face interaction from their teacher(s).
If you are a parent who is concerned about your child(ren) returning at this time due to COVID-19 and would rather wait until you feel things are safer, you would want to make this choice.
Choice 3: Polk County Virtual Academy
Selecting Polk County Virtual Academy means that your child(ren) will be learning in a very non traditional setting. Making this choice will mean that the curriculum will be delivered in a self-paced, self-guided manner. There are details in the Q & A section below. If requested, your child(ren) will be issued a school owned Chromebook with an online curriculum (Edmentum) that is geared toward a self-motivated student. There will be some support from the district.
If you are a parent who is concerned about your child(ren) returning at all due to COVID-19 and you feel that your child(ren) can learn independently, you would want to make this choice. For an informational video and to apply for PCVA, please visit www.menaschools.org.
There are still many details about the regular school day that will be uncertain until we know how many students to expect; such as, how your child(ren)’s teacher will arrange their classroom or how band practice will be conducted. These are things that are still unknown at this time, but we hope this document will provide enough information for you to make an informed decision in the best interest of the ones you love.
Control of COVID-19
Mena Public Schools is making preparation for students to learn in the safest environment possible. We have considered student and faculty arrival/dismissal procedures, bus arrival/dismissal procedures, lunch schedules for students and staff, and each building’s instructional schedule and will make adjustments when feasible to be consistent with current Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
Masks or Other Facial Coverings
Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a statewide mandate requiring the wearing of face coverings. With some exceptions, the Directive requires every person 10 years of age and older to wear a face covering completely over the mouth and nose in both indoor environments and outdoor settings when distancing of six feet or more cannot be assured. Face shields do not substitute for masks. More details are provided in the Q & A section below.
Bus transportation of Mena students will continue and scheduled routes will remain the same. Parents who want to bring their child(ren) to school will be allowed to in the same manner as in previous years. Bus and car rider schedules may be adjusted as the year progresses and as things change.
Social distancing of 6 feet when not wearing masks will be enforced whenever possible. A distance of 12 feet will be required when teachers are without masks and delivering lectures or other instruction to students. Classrooms will be adjusted to accomplish social distancing where feasible. Other adjustments to classroom space will be made depending upon circumstances. For instance, high school classes will be separated into other rooms when class sizes are too large.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Mena Public Schools will provide many hand sanitizing stations in classrooms and hallways. Signage in bathrooms will emphasize the importance of hand washing and instruct students on proper procedures. The district has purchased state-of-the-art antimicrobial electrostatic systems to disinfect classrooms, hallways, commons areas, and buses. These systems will be used on a routine basis and in the event of outbreaks. Furthermore, general cleaning agents will be used along with further disinfection training of administrative, teaching, clerical, and custodial staff.
Questions & Answers
We understand that there are particular questions you may have so we have anticipated some with answers provided. If you have other questions, please email your specific COVID-19 related questions to Mena Public Schools at: MenaCOVIDQuestions@menaschools.org. We will try to answer them as quickly and accurately as possible.
Q: When will school start?
A: As of July 16th, 2020, school will begin on August 24th, 2020.
Q: Will students be required to wear face coverings?
A: a. Currently, Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, is mandating that all individuals 10 years old and over wear a face covering. Mena Public Schools is following the Governor’s mandate that adults and students age 10 and up wear face coverings when physical distancing cannot be achieved, particularly on school buses. b. Students under 10 years of age and those with health issues and special needs will not be asked to wear face coverings. Student and adult exemption from wearing masks will require documentation from a health care provider to support a claim of exemption due to a medical condition or disability that prevents the person from wearing a face covering. c. Students will be required to wear face coverings in areas with a high concentration of students where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Q: What do I do if my child or someone in my household tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Notify one of these people at the school: Shane Torix, (479)216-6644 or your school’s nurse.
Q: If we want our child(ren) to wear masks do we provide our own or will they be provided?
A: Both. The district will order facemasks for students, but they may not arrive in time for school and they may not be comfortable for your child(ren); therefore, we are encouraging parents to provide facemasks, as well.
Q: If I choose Traditional, how normal will the school day be?
A: Our goal is to make the school day as normal as possible. Each building will develop its own plan.
Q: Will our students have extracurricular opportunities and extra classes like P.E.?
A: Yes. The instructors of these courses will receive materials, equipment, supplies, and training for delivery and social distancing to provide these classes in as normal a situation as possible. The number of students we have coming to school will determine the planning we will need to conduct.
Q: Will school meals still be provided to all students?
A: Yes. Students who receive traditional schooling will be served meals to be eaten in alternate locations or on alternate schedules to allow for social distancing. Students who choose blended or PCVA will be allowed to pick up their meals at a location and time to be determined.
Q: Will my elementary student still have recess?
A: Yes. The recess schedule will be changed to allow social distancing with the same level of supervision. We will accomplish this by limiting the number of students on the playground at the same time, shorten recess time, and limit the number of students allowed on playground equipment.
Q: Will social distancing always be practiced?
A: Not always. If you choose traditional or blended during this time there will be some risks. Social distancing will be in place where it is feasible, but sometimes it is not feasible. For example, on buses we will not be able to enforce social distancing guidelines. Therefore, we encourage wearing masks even more. When we are not able to enforce social distancing, masks will be strongly encouraged.
Q: Will classrooms be arranged differently?
A: Yes, if needed. Some classrooms will be able to accommodate social distancing with all students in the class. Classes that are more crowded will spread out to different areas of the building (for older students) or have furnishings removed to allow more space for students to spread out.
Q: If someone tests positive for COVID-19, what will happen?
A: First, the person who tests positive will not be allowed on campus. The district administration has had much communication with ADH and DESE for instructions on what to do. We will follow the most current guidance from these agencies and keep parents informed to the extent allowed by law.
Q: If someone at school has symptoms, what will happen?
A: In short, usual procedures for sick students will be followed. Individuals with symptoms will be isolated from other students until they can be sent home to avoid further exposure. The district will have health care professionals, ADH, and administrative primary contact personnel to coordinate these events as they happen.
Q: If I choose Blended or PCVA but want to switch to Traditional, what do I do?
A: Before sending your child(ren) back to school you must arrange a reentry conference with your child(ren)’s school by calling the school’s office to make the request.
Q: What about sports?
A: Mena Public Schools will follow all guidelines and rules set forth by the AAA and the ADH where sports are concerned.
Q: Currently, the AAA is requiring student athletes to wear masks at certain times. Will this continue once school starts?
A: All student athletes will be required to follow current AAA guidelines. If guidelines change before August 24th, Mena Schools will notify athletes and parents and will remain in compliance with AAA rules.
Q: Will students and adults be screened daily?
A: Faculty and staff will be screened daily at their buildings. Students will need to be screened at home by parents and guardians. If the need arises during the school day, further screening of students will be done by school personnel.
Q: If I choose virtual or blended, will my child(ren) be able to participate in extracurricular activities?
A: Yes, but transportation to and from school must be provided by the parent or guardian. The student must also fulfill all participation requirements set for by the AAA. Further questions may be directed to the Athletic Director.
Q: Will we have Open House?
A: At this time we are planning a Virtual Open House to be conducted by your teacher(s).
Q: How will Mena Public Schools help my child(ren) catch up on the learning lost from last year?
A: Students will be assessed to determine their level of proficiency. After this, learning plans will be developed for each student to address their academic needs. We will continually monitor their progress and respond with interventions as needed. Exact Path on Edmentum will be the primary monitoring tool throughout the district.
Q: What will happen if school closes again?
A: The online curriculum (Edmentum) being delivered in all three choices will be continued with daily interaction from your child(ren)’s teacher(s). The period of closure will be a minimum amount and the district will keep parents informed as the closure progresses.
Q: What advice would you give to parents with child(ren) who have compromising health conditions or special needs?
A: The Student Support Committee met on Monday, July 13th, 2020, and discussed ways to accommodate students with special needs. The accommodations will vary from student to student with expert advice from Counselors, Special Education Teachers, Behavioral Specialists, and administrators for the best solutions for your child(ren).
Q: In the event of a school closure, how will students with special needs be served?
A: The Student Support Committee met on Monday, July 13th, 2020, and discussed ways to accommodate students with special needs. Some solutions were: Mindplay for continued learning and Zoom video conferencing for support. The accommodations will vary from student to student with expert advice from Counselors, Special Education Teachers, Behavioral Specialists, and administrators for the best solutions for your child(ren).
Q: Can you guarantee the safety of students and staff?
A: No. However, we cannot guarantee safety under normal circumstances, either. We can guarantee that the staff at Mena Public Schools will make the safety of our students a top priority.
Q: How will my child(ren) be graded if I choose Blended or PCVA?
A: If you choose Blended, your child(ren) will be learning under the supervision of a Mena Public Schools teacher and will be graded by them according to the same standards as the traditional students. If you choose PCVA, your child will be learning under the guidance of an Arkansas state certified teacher and will be graded by them according to course standards.
Q: What if I don’t have Internet access and want one of the virtual options?
A: The District may be able to provide hotspots for households that have good cell phone service or another reliable Internet provider subscription. If your household does not have reliable Internet, you should not choose either of these options unless absolutely certain this is what is best for your child(ren). Please consult a school official for further details.
Q: If I have a new student or a kindergartner, do I still need to register my child(ren) for school?
A: Yes. No matter what choice you make for the 20-21 school year, you should still register new students for kindergarten or if you are new to the district. Powerschool registration forms and instructions can be found on the District website.
The email address to send further questions to is (MenaCOVIDQuestions@menaschools.org). Teachers and/or administrators will be reaching out to parents by phone during the week of July 20-24 to ask which decision they will be making and answer other questions they might have at that time. The District asks that parents be prepared for these calls as they arrive.
The District reminds everyone to remember that we are all in this together and everyone at Mena Public Schools sincerely cares for the wellbeing of all students and staff and will do all it can to keep them safe while delivering the same high-quality education it always has.
7-22-20 2:30 PM KAWX.ORG