On July 28th, 2020 Ballinger ISD hosted a meeting that involved over a dozen parent volunteers to discuss the changes that will be implemented for the upcoming year. The meeting started with Mr. Butts giving a brief overview and then breaking down the survey results from parents that responded and was followed by the principal of each campus talking about what changes they will have for their campus specifically. The session also allowed for questions from the parents for the administration on topics related to in person attendance ans well is digital learning from home.
On the survey that was sent to parents there were not many recommendations that received a majority of the votes, but the three top vote getters were hand sanitizer readily provided at school entrances and every classroom, enhanced cleaning of school facilities and daily temperature checks. Another popular choice was having alternating attendance days where students would be separated into two groups and group A would attend school in person on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while group B attended online and group B would attend Tuesday and Thursday while group a was online. This would alternate every week. Unfortunately, Mr. Butts explained, that the Texas Education Agency had recently come out saying that schools can not do that and receive funding. Students will need to either be enrolled 100% in person or 100% online.
Another point Mr. Butts wanted parents to be aware of is that virtual learning this year will be nothing like the virtual learning that was thrown together quickly in the Spring. There will be daily login requirements and students are required to follow the exact same assignments, expectations and grading policies.
Every student will be required to have their own masks. The school will have masks on hand to give to children should something happen to theirs, but every student is highly encouraged to have their own. Guidance from the state level is that all students 10 and over will be required to wear a mask, but as Mr. Butts said “It is going to be really hard to explain to a 10 year old 4th grader why they have to wear a mask, but the 9 year old 4th grader right next to them does not. We have decided that we will just start mandatory mask policies at the 5th grade level and going up.”
In the instance someone does acquire Covid or is showing Covid-like symptoms the individual in question will be treated on an individual basis. This is to say that in the case that a family has four children, but only one of those children is expressing symptoms only that child will be sent home to quarantine. The student will be encouraged to stay home for 14 days, but the return to school procedures will remain the same as before with 24 hours fever free being the requirement. A fever will be considered everything over 99.9°.
Guidance specific to Ballinger High School will be that kids will be fever screened on a daily basis. There will be separate entrances and exits to the building depending on the grade level. Freshmen and Sophomores will enter by the front office, while Juniors and Seniors will use the entrance next to the basketball courts. Upon entering the building students need to report directly to their 1st period class. After checking in students may get a to-go breakfast and take it back to the classroom to eat. There will no longer be a mid-morning break period either. There will however be an extra 10 minutes at the end of 2nd period that they will be able to get items to eat. As true social distancing will not be possible within classrooms teachers will make a concerted effort to spread desks as much as possible. Hand sanitizer will be located at buildings entrances as well as inside each classroom. Teachers will clean and sanitize rooms in between every period. If possible there will be no shared supplies, but in the instance there are supplies will be sanitized in between every use.
Group work will still be implemented as an effective learning tool, but students will be encouraged to collaborate virtually instead of face to face. Hallways will be marked one way use so students are not moving face to face and there will be no locker use this year. Due to the high school having an open campus there will be no significant changes other than ensuring students are spread out in the cafeteria. The library will be closed unless scheduled by a teacher. Restroom use will be documented and monitored in case there is a need for contact tracing. There will be no restroom use during passing periods. There will be no change to dismissal other than using designated exits. Gaiters, bandanas and halloween masks are not considered appropriate facial coverings. Also, any masks will have to be within dress code standards. Buses will be loaded from back to front with a mask requirement as well. Students from the same family can sit together, but others are not allowed to share seating. Water dispensers have been ordered to replace the drinking fountains. Once installed the students will be able to use dispensers to refill water bottles.
Ballinger Junior High will have many of the same or similar changes as the high school. The maintenance department is splitting the road in front of the junior high school into three lanes, one for each grade. Students will be temperature checked at drop off and will enter the front of the building in their respective hallway. Students will report directly to first period and will have the opportunity to get a breakfast. The junior high will also implement one-way hallways and no lockers. Paper usage will be at a minimum this year as the school will move to a more digital format in the event schools again get shut down.Instead of all junior high going to eat lunch at the same time there will be a staggered lunch with the 6th and 7th grade going together and the 8th grade after. Restroom breaks will not be allowed during passing periods and must be documented and monitored for contact tracing purposes.
At the Elementary level students will maintain proximity only with their individual grades. 1st grade and up will be able to grab breakfast and then go to their classroom in the mornings. Head Start, Pre-K and Kindergarten will receive their meals in their classrooms. No lunch visitors will be allowed this year for the foreseeable future. In the early weeks much time will be spent on sanitizing procedures and personal safety. Label all supplies at the beginning of the year as they will only be used by your student.
Due to the complicated drop-off procedures in place and some families having multiple children that all need to be dropped off in separate locations the district will be more lenient on 1st period tardies. Still up in the air is how the district will conduct Pep Rallies, or if they will replace them with something else.