Students, teachers prepare to head back to classes at The Island School in a sea of questions and concerns from parents

August 21, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – As the doors prepare to open at The Island School on August 31, plans are being made to keep children and staff as safe as possible. The first step in the process will be to hold the traditional open house on several nights, virtually.

On Monday, Aug. 24 the first virtual open house via Zoom, for children in fifth grade with teachers Jane Bengston, Lisa Brown, Head-of-School Jean Thompson, and Nicole Tillotson-Main. On Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. the kindergarten class will meet on Zoom with teacher Megan O’Connor.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. the 3rd and 4th grade classes will meet on Zoom with teachers Dorothy Rahal and J.T. Tremaine.

On Thursday, Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. the 1st grade class will meet with Stephanie Perrin Shirback, and on Friday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. all second graders with meet with teacher Rebecca Blalock.

At each open house teachers will speak first for about 10 minutes. Then, Thompson will follow up with general procedures and answer any questions.

When the school year begins, everyone who enters the building must wear a mask. This includes teachers, students, and anyone else who has permission to enter. Parents will not be able to enter the building, with exceptions that are pre-arranged.

This year will be much difference for many reasons. For instance, all students must bring a backpack that can be placed on the back of their seat. Inside the backpack, students should bring their lunch in a container that does not require refrigeration (or holds an ice pack), a snack, a water bottle and a beach towel. The towel will be used for the multiple trips the children will make outside, to sit under the trees and take a break from wearing their masks (while social distancing).

This year students will not have the option of being dropped off early for morning care, as there will be no open common areas. Doors to classrooms open at 8:15 a.m., and school starts at 8:30 a.m.

The amount of children attending afterschool care will be limited this year. The school is asking parents to only send their children if the parents are working past 3 p.m.

One of the biggest changes will be that the children will stay in the their same small class groups for the duration of each day. Students will arrive at their individual external classroom doors, and they will enter into the building after having their temperature checked. They will leave school the same way, and parents will wait outside for them.

“The goal is to have students physically present in school,” Thompson said. “The Island School’s reopening plan is based on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The four areas of critical focus that include face coverings, hand hygiene, social distancing and reduction of high-touch surfaces will provide students, teachers, and families with the most protection possible in the school environment.

“We are reviewing all facets of the school day to take critical focus areas into consideration and determine how to best implement them. “In addition to looking at the physical environment and changes that must be made, we are preparing for a fluid, flexible learning environment that includes both brick and mortar (in-school learning) and remote/distance learning. A stricter sick policy for students and staff members with fevers, cough, or upper respiratory symptoms will also be in place.”

Thompson said changes are possible at any time, and that local health department numbers and suggestions from local health organizations will be followed.