Superintendent presents plan for reopening Troy schools

| August 7, 2020 8:05 AM

Parents received an update on the reopening plans for Troy Public Schools from Superintendent Jacob Francom on Aug. 5.

Francom hosted a conference call over Zoom and Facebook Live where he walked through the four-phase plan schools will follow when the fall semester begins on Aug. 26.

In phase zero — the most restrictive version of the plan — classrooms will be closed and students will follow a remote learning schedule similar to the one adopted by districts in the spring. Francom said a paper remote learning curriculum might be provided for students who do not have access to the Internet. School meals will be delivered to students.

In phase one, schools would operate under a normal schedule and school year calendar. Lunches would be held in classrooms to minimize student interaction. Recesses will be staggered for elementary school students. In grades five and up, students will stay in one classroom and teachers will rotate through each period.

Francom said he would propose a trimester program for Troy High School in phase one at an Aug. 10 school board meeting. This schedule will offer students two and a half periods per trimester. The first two periods would be two hours long while the half period would run 80 minutes. Under this system, Francom said high school students would finish the year with seven and a half credits.

To ensure students are socially distanced, strict seating charts will be mandated in phase one.

In phase one, food service would be delivered either directly to classrooms or provided to students outside where they could eat while social distanced.

As of now, students would not be required to wear masks at school, according to Francom. Gov. Steve Bullock did not include schools in his July 15 mask mandate for indoor public spaces in counties with four or more active cases of the coronavirus.

Phase two — the phase Francom said the district would operate under if schools were to reopen tomorrow — closely resembles phase one. The most significant difference is that students can move from classroom to classroom. Students would be encouraged to wear masks and limit mingling in hallways.

Food service would resume in the cafeteria in phase two, but Francom said it would most likely be limited to one or two classes at a time.

In phase one and two, no visitors or volunteers would be allowed into schools. Families would be able to fill out a form to opt out of sending their students back to the classroom in these phases.

In addition to asking students with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home, Francom said the district is looking to hire a full time health aide and a full time nurse to oversee school health requirements. If a student at school begins showing COVID-19 symptoms, Francom said they would be put in a health room to await pickup.

According to the health considerations outlined in the plans, the school district will adhere to county health department guidelines and may require individuals who spend more than 15 minutes within a six-foot radius of an infected person to quarantine.

District staff will be prepared to shut down the schools immediately and provide remote learning if necessary.

Francom said teachers would instruct at the front of classrooms, standing behind lines marked on the floor, in grades five through 12. These lines would keep teachers six feet from students.

In phases one and two, Francom said the school district would adopt a strict cleaning schedule. Under phase one, teachers would disinfect rooms when elementary school students take lunch. Under phase two, staff would scrub the rooms between classes.

Bathrooms, playgrounds and common areas would be frequently cleaned and buses would be disinfected after each use.

Francom said athletics would likely be permitted on a limited scale in phase one and two. The district will be following Montana High School Association guidelines for sports.

According to the updated MHSA protocols, practices should be conducted in isolated “bubbles” with the same players training together to limit overall exposure. While competing, athletes would be required to social distance and the number of nonessential staff on the field would be limited. Interstate competition would not be allowed unless approved by the MHSA director.

In phase three — the final phase of the plan — schools would operate as they had before the coronavirus.

To guide students and parents through the new system, Francom said the school district is building a website. A flow chart parents can use while deciding whether they should send their students to school can be found on the district’s Facebook page along with the draft of the reopening plans.