As school districts across the commonwealth continue to make back-to-school plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Science Hill Independent School is offering its families a choice between distance learning or in-class instruction each day.

Science Hill Superintendent Jimmy Dyehouse sent out a letter to parents on Tuesday, noting that district officials are still working on the details in light of recommendations coming from both the governor's office and local health authorities. One thing that the school board won't decide until its July 14 meeting is the actual start date for students -- August 6 or September 9. More details are expected later in July as well as an opportunity for families to question

Dyehouse said having parents choose allows "each household to decide what is best for their children while still remaining part of the Science Hill School family" with all its resources. He outlined some guidelines for each option. More details will be released before families have to make a decision.

"We hope this information will allow you to be being to think about what will be best for your child," Dyehouse stated. "We know this in an uncertain time for our families and we want to provide a safe, secure, nurturing environment for our students.

Safety precautions being discussed for in-school students include:

* Temperature checks for students as they load buses or before they exit parent vehicles.

• Strategic traffic flow plans to reduce students in the hallways/common areas.

* No lockers will be used and students will report to classes as soon as they arrive at school.

• P-5 students will remain in their classrooms and teachers will change classes for instruction.

• All students will still receive "specials" classes each day as well as outdoor recess as weather permits.

• Masks will be available for students, or they may bring their own from home.

• We will be able to provide "Social Distancing" during class time, therefore masks will not have to be worn all day. When students are in the hallway or moving to a different location they will be asked to put their mask on.

• If your child has a health condition that prevents him or her from wearing a mask, then we will accommodate on an individual basis.

• Extra cleaning and sanitizing will take place throughout the day and in the evenings.

• Teachers will wear PPE if working in small groups with students. School officials hope to use face shields when possible to students will still see teachers' faces completely.

• Common areas (lobby, cafeteria, auditorium, etc.) will have limited access for students.

• Playground times will be scheduled at alternating times for students.

• The school nurse will have procedures in place to deal with students/faculty who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms separate from the Nurse's Office.

• Students may be asked to alternate eating in the cafeteria and classroom so that no student eats in classrooms everyday but the school can maintain social distancing safely.

• The school encourages as many students as possible to be picked up and dropped off rather than ride the bus.

• Buses will have assigned seats for all students and students must wear masks.

• All staff members will be tested for COVID-19 before the first day of school.

Parents considering distance learning should expect the following guidelines:

• Students would stay at home each day but must log on to Google Classroom to watch videos of their teachers giving direct instruction to the in-school group. Daily participation would be required and tracked. Details of who this would work day to day are still being developed.

• Students would be expected to complete the same assignments as in-class students but work might be submitted once a week rather than daily.

• Distance learning students would still be able to participate in any extracurricular activities that are offered.

• Distance learning students can pick up their lunch each day as an enrolled student at Science Hill.

• A contract between parents and the school district outlining the responsibilities of both parties would need to be signed.

• Should the COVID-19 situation change and parents feel comfortable sending their child back to school, Science Hill would be able to accommodate that change.

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