Rome schools seek survey input by Sunday

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Responses to a new Rome school district survey of families regarding preferences for in-person or remote learning amid the COVID-19 situation are due Sunday, for helping the district plan a potential return to in-person learning in October.

The survey, being issued this week, was addressed by district Superintendent Peter C. Blake in his online blog. A district decision on returning to in-person learning will be communicated to families on or before Oct. 9.

As part of an in-person learning scenario, "remote learning schedules will be adjusted and will not be as rigorous as we are experiencing now," the blog said Sunday. "Students who opt for remote-only learning will continue to follow a daily schedule...However, the minutes/hours spent online throughout the day will be decreased."

When asked Monday about the remote schedule adjustments, Blake said "schedules cannot be the same because having kids in classrooms at the same time as having kids at home is a very challenging task."

Blake added "everything will need to be modified and until the world returns to normal where all kids are in school every day, there is going to be continuous adjustment and changes to scheduling and teaching as people work to figure things out that they've never done before."

The district launched its 2020-21 academic year on Sept. 14 with all-remote instruction for general education.

Blake told the Board of Education last week the district might have pre-K to grade 2 students resume daily in-person instruction during the week of Oct. 12, while continuing with a previously targeted Oct. 26 date for grades 3-12 to return. His subsequent blog said "if possible, depending on responses to the next round of surveying, we may look to bring students in grades pre-K (to) 2 back to school on Tuesday, October 13."

Regarding the upcoming additional survey of families following one in August, Blake said while there have not been drastic changes in COVID-19 data or situations since then, "families' mindset and/or opinions on in-person/remote learning may have changed drastically. In an effort to get the most accurate data and information from which to plan and prepare from, we are asking families to once again complete a brief survey indicating your desire for your student(s) as it relates to in-person or remote learning."

The district would aim for elementary school in-person schedules to be five days a week in-person provided that building capacities can support that demand, Blake said; social-distancing requirements can affect available space. Otherwise the elementary schools would use a hybrid format combining in-person and remote schedules. The district already plans for middle school and high school schedules to be hybrid, due to their buildings' capacities with social distancing considerations.

Also for an in-person learning environment, "parents should expect that there will be moments when students/staff are closer than six feet apart, simply by nature of the need to move throughout the building and/or to participate in learning activities," said Blake's blog. Students in buildings will be expected to wear face coverings at all times, with breaks scheduled throughout the day.

Once a decision is reached on potential in-person learning including whether the elementary format would be all in-person or be hybrid, said Blake, the district will conduct community forums for question-and-answer opportunities similar to sessions held in late August.

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