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Newport Schools to Reopen with Hybrid In-Person, Virtual Plan

The Newport Board of Education approved a school reopening plan Wednesday that will feature a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual instruction with a heavy emphasis on safety measures designed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a news release said.

Students are being given the choice of either continuing to learn virtual at home or a combination of attending class and virtual learning. The initial plan will be in effect for nine weeks and will begin Aug. 31.

"Our number one focus is keeping everyone safe," said Newport Superintendent Tony Watts. "We will be cleaning, sanitizing and social distancing as much as possible. Anytime a surface is used, we are going to clean it."

Board Chairwoman Ramona Malone said the entire Board of Education realizes that teaching, learning, and managing school buildings is difficult during the pandemic.

"But there really is no other option," she said.

Under the reopen plan, students will have two instructional choices:

  • Attend classes two days a week - either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday - and do virtual learning the other three days: or
  • Do not attend classes and learn virtually at home.

School buildings will be closed Wednesday for deep cleaning and sanitizing. Surfaces and other areas will also be cleaned and sanitized while students and staff are in the buildings.

Watts said the district is contacting every parent and family in the district to determine their preference. The district is also working to ensure that families with more than one child in school can attend classes on the same day to alleviate childcare conflicts.

Teachers will remain vigilant in making sure students complete their classroom assignments.

"If a student is home Monday and Tuesday, teachers will expect the student to have their work ready to turn in Thursday and Friday," Watts said.

Newport is also aggressively recruiting new students to the Newport School of Innovation, which provides online instruction.

Given the potential for a rise in COVID-19 cases and should the hybrid plan prove ineffective, the district can return to all virtual learning later in the fall.

"If it turns out people aren't comfortable with this plan, we can go all virtual at any point," Watts said.

Other safety measures will include:

  • Students entering school buildings will have their temperatures taken and recorded.
  • Students will wear masks upon entering school buildings.
  • Students, teachers, and staff will continually be reminded and given opportunities to wash and sanitize their hands.
  • Breakfast will be served in bags, grab-and-go” style, with students taking their breakfast to the classroom. Lunches will be pre-ordered by students and served in classrooms.
  • Unless seated, masks must be worn.
  • As students enter and leave school, teachers will monitor hallways to maintain social distancing.
  • To reduce the amount of movement in hallways, students will remain in classrooms and teachers will change classrooms each period.
  • Water foundations will be shut off. Students will receive water bottles for drinking.
  • Teachers will go through enhanced technology training.

More details will be announced in August, a news release said.

Watts and school board members asked for patience and understanding from students, parents, and families as the reopen plan is implemented.

"We know this will not be easy," he said. "But we have to be patient and we have to have everyone work with us to make this possible."

"This puts all of us outside of our comfort zone," said Board member Julie Smith-Morrow.

-Staff report

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