JACKSONVILLE, Fla — From the bus stop to the final bell, your children will notice a lot of changes this school year as Duval County Public Schools is getting ready to open its doors to students for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.
The district’s safety precautions start well before your children will even walk onto school grounds.
Students will be asked to fill buses from back to front after applying hand sanitizer. The seats in the two front rows — closest to the bus driver — will remain empty, according to Duval County Public Schools.
“Will there be socially distancing on the bus? The honest answer is that it’s going to be virtually impossible to social distance with CDC guidelines on the bus," DCPS Director of Marketing Tracy Pierce said. "We’re just being honest about that, which is why having a face covering on the bus is a requirement.“
Although, Duval County Public Schools said it will make sure seats don’t have more than one or two students in them.
If ridership increases when Duval HomeRoom students begin choosing to go back to brick-and-mortar, the district said it will reroute the buses to keep ridership down.
Bus drivers will also have masks available for students who do not have one.
A video breaking down all the DCPS transportation changes can be seen, here.
When students arrive at school, their temperature will be checked with a non-contact digital thermometer before they will be let inside. If the student’s temperature is 100.4 degrees or greater, he or she will not be allowed to go to class.
“If the students are already exhibiting a fever — if they’re a walker [or bus passenger], they would go into an isolation room, which will be monitored by an adult," Pierce said. "If they’re a car rider, obviously we would send them home with their parents.”
The parent/guardian is expected to pick the student up within one hour, according to Duval County Public Schools. If a parent/guardian can't be reached or has not arrived within one hour, the emergency contact person will be called to pick up that student.
Temperature tests will also be done for teachers, administrators and anyone who needs to enter a DCPS building, according to the district.
If your children aren't learning virtually, they will be spending most of their time in the classroom.
Students in grades three to five can expect to see some form of a clear plastic shield on their desk and will also be required to wear face masks. Duval County Public Schools said students are supposed to stay at their assigned desk throughout the day for all subjects. In a role reversal, teachers will be moving classrooms from period to period.
“[My students] have everything individual this year. They’re not going to be sharing," Fishweir Elementary Teacher Khrissy Olson explained as she set up assigned supplies in her classroom.
Students kindergarten through second grade — like Olson’s first graders — will be required to wear face masks and a face shield so it's easier for them to get around the classroom. These younger students will not have clear plastic shields at their desks, but small group learning tables will feature barriers between stations.
“Everyone here is trying to do our best," Olson said. "At Fishweir we certainly are a family, and we want our children to feel that way. We want your children to feel safe and at home."
Principal Kimberly Dennis said classroom sizes at Fishweir will vary from grade level to grade level but, based on the number of their students currently enrolled in Duval HomeRoom to start the school year, there will be about 13 to 18 students in a class.
“We will be able to social distance students as much as possible, but they will have their face coverings on at all times except for [activities such as] lunch, recess, PE [and music classes]," Dennis explained.
DCPS is providing each class with personal protective equipment including masks, face shields and gloves.
Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will also be available in every room.
Students will have to wear face-coverings most of the time, but they'll need to take them off to eat. Although, DCPS is requiring them to have to wear a face-covering while waiting in line to receive and pay for school meals.
Chartwells Regional Director Will Ratley said food options will be the same, but they will be pre-packaged. Then behind Plexiglas barriers, cafeteria employees will scan the student’s school ID card at the register for touch-free checkout.
“The number one priority is to have our staff fully trained on all aspects of COVID-19 and food safety training," Ratley explained. "Every employee will have a face mask, disposable gloves. Line servers will also have a face shield for an extra layer of safety.“
How students will be socially distanced in the cafeteria will vary from school to school, Duval County Public Schools said.
The New Cleaning Plan
Before the first bell rings and throughout the day, custodians will be disinfecting high-touch points — such as doorknobs, bookcases and bathroom fixtures.
They’ll also be disinfecting and deep cleaning areas such as desktops and clear plastic shields after students go home for the day. All of this is a part of DCPS's new cleaning plan designed to keep students and staff safe.
“Our custodian crew is doing a lot of what they were doing before, just a lot more of it on a day to day basis," ABM Janitorial Services David Good said.
The district has even put up another line of defense that you can’t see called an antimicrobial surface protector, which stays on for days and kills bacteria and some viruses.
“After you disinfect, if someone comes in and touches something, they can actually reinfect an area," Bio Supplies Director of Operations James Bailey said. "What [BIOPROTECT 500] is a long-term shield. So, if someone comes in and touches the desk, it doesn’t allow you to cross-contaminant.“
DCPS said the “long-term shield” cleaning product will be reapplied every 90 days or less to surfaces around each school.
Bailey said BIOPROTECT 500 can't claim — as of yet — to kill the COVID-19 virus, but a recent Global Virus Network study found it to be effective.
For More Information
DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene's August Report and the district's website offers other detailed back to school information.