Baldwin County schools will offer virtual school option Aug. 12
By Fran Thompson
The Baldwin County School District, like Gulf Shores, is offering parents the choice between sending their children to traditional classes or enrolling them in virtual school.
The school year starts on Aug. 12, and the deadline to enroll students in virtual school is August 10.
Students can change enrollment back and forth through August.
After Labor Day, a student may only change at the end of a quarter or semester, depending upon their grade level.
BCSD’s award winning virtual school has been operating for over a decade for middle and high school students. It will now also be open for the first time to elementary students.
Superintendent Eddie Tyler said at a recent press conference that he will be releasing weekly updates with more details on policies that he hopes will hold true throughout the fall semester.
Tyler said BCSD employees have been working with experts to create a safe environment traditional school settings when school resumes.
“We have been providing supplies to sanitize and make our schools as safe and healthy as possible,’’ he said. “We have truckloads of hand sanitizer and disinfectants being distributed to all of our locations.’’
Specific plans were not released regarding mandatory masks. But each school will monitor student and staff temperatures and implement social distancing measures when possible.
“We have been working on plans to be transparent and notify parents about sickness within our schools, while respecting privacy laws and regulations,’’ he said. “I think your Baldwin County Schools are as well prepared as we can be.’’
BCSD has spent almost $1 million on security upgrades that include installing misters with a “10 minute kill times,’’ and up to three thermal cameras at each school. The cameras will indicate if a child has a temperature above normal and can also detect whether someone is wearing a mask.
Virtual school is available this year to students K – 12, but parents should know it is very different from the distance learning students experienced after schools shut down in Marcah, according to Tyler.
“This is real-world school. It’s just virtually. Parents need to understand, if we make that decision for my child then me or my husband have to be dedicated to this because you will be graded,” Tyler said. “Your absences will be graded. You’re expected to make sure you’re staying in touch with teachers.”
Tyler said the virtual school program is built around a comprehensive software and curriculum management system that covers both core and elective subjects.
There are no in-person classes for virtual students, but there are in-person assessments and tutoring is available at the main location on Hwy. 98 in Daphne or at remote facilities that will be in place across Baldwin County. Tyler said satellite locations can be added or moved depending on the need.
Virtual school students would go to a classroom setting for testing, tutoring, assessments and access to teachers.
Tyler said he realizes that for working parents, virtual school is a difficult option, depending upon the age and maturity level of the child and whether the child is mature enough to be self-directed in their studies.
“A large part of your child’s success in the virtual school program relies upon their own self-direction and motivation,’’ Tyler said.
More info and registration info: BaldwinVirtual.com.
Tyler said he will release more info about busing operations in the coming weeks, but he strongly suggests that parents consider alternate modes of transportation for their children’s safety.
“Many of the families we serve would be harmed if they could not go to work,’’ Tyler said. “In all of these different scenarios we have to remember that our public schools are an essential industry. We are required to operate because if our schools are not open, then businesses are closed, and the impacts are felt upon everybody.’’
Tyler said he has heard both from parents whose children are afraid they may get coronavirus and die and parents who have children suffering from a lack of social interaction.
“Whatever your decision is as a family, I hope that you will take an opportunity to sit down with your child and discuss the options and make sure that they understand and feel comfortable in the decisions which are being made,’’ he said.
Tyler said all of the information and directives surrounding COVID-19, including mandatory masks, are changing so rapidly that it would not be prudent to announce a mask policy until closer to Aug. 12.
“The mask issue is changing so rapidly. Look at Mobile County, unincorporated or in the city, you will wear a mask when you are out in public. I’m sure some of our cities here might be considering it. Some of the stores you walk into are now requiring masks,’’ he said.
“We want to make the best decision when it comes to masks and transportation and those things. But I don’t want to put it out there when issues are changing so quickly. I want to make them at a time when I am very comfortable putting that info out there rather than having to come back and apologize for it next week.’’
Tyler said that does not mean BCSD has not planned to overcome hurdles such as positive tests at school, treating infected children who are not symptomatic, children exposed at home, spacing on busses and cafeteria procedures.
“I promise you that we are going to answer all of these questions and many more over the next few weeks,’’ Tyler said.
“Some of this depends on how many people choose to enroll in the virtual school option regardless of our plans.’’
By Fran Thompson
All students will have the choice to learn in a traditional setting or a virtual format when Gulf Shores begins its 2nd year as a school district on August 12. Students who select the virtual education option will be required to participate in this program for a minimum of one quarter.
After school care will continue to be an option for elementary and middle schoolers
“Both options will provide a rigorous and engaging learning experience,’’ said GSS Superintendent Matt Akin. “It is extremely important that students who participate in virtual education are motivated learners who have access to regular adult support at home to ensure a successful learning experience.’’
The plan is subject to change according to circumstances surrounding Covid-19 evolve. “We understand that we may have to make modifications based on changing guidance from the ADPH and the SDE,’’ said GSS Superintendent Matt Akin.
Teachers delivering face-to-face instruction will also maintain content and assignments online for possible short-term student absences due to COVID-19 exposure or infection. “For students who must be out of school for short periods of time, our goal is to provide a seamless transition from the traditional classroom to a temporary online environment,’’ Akin said.
To see the plan, visit gsboe.org. To reach Superintendent Akin, call (251) 968-9873 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superintendent’s Best Quote
“Although we face many challenges, the opportunities for our students continue to grow.’’
Spanish in grades K-12; robotics and STEAM classes at GSMS; aviation at GSHS; Spanish in grades K-12, Gulf Coast Ecology; Engineering; Rising Tide; Fine Arts.
Outdoor classrooms, STEAM labs, robotics labs, sensory room, and a $4.6 million capital improvement project to upgrade athletic facilities for athletes.
Elementary School Virtual Academy Highlights
Students must complete all assignments on time and participate in scheduled, small group sessions 1-5 days per week with attendance taken. Students are permitted to work ahead in courses, but if they who fall behind, they may be required to attend traditional school.
Students are required to participate in annual, on-campus state mandated standardized testing and will have the option to participate in weekly face-to-face or virtual enrichment activities such as art, music, physical education and Spanish at the Gulf Shores Cultural Center, which will be the campus for the Gulf Shores Virtual Academy. Students can participate in after-school clubs at the GSES campus. Tutoring by zoom or face- to-face is available.
Middle & High School Virtual Academy
Core, elective, and advanced placement course options will be offered and high school students have an opportunity to take 18 hours of tuition free dual enrollment classes at Coastal Alabama Community College Gulf Shores Campus. Qualified high school students will also be able to take discount dual enrollment classes at Auburn, Alabama and South Alabama.
Some students, based on performance, will be required to participate in videoconferencing sessions 1-5 days per week, and students who fall behind in their course work or do not maintain adequate attendance may be required to attend traditional school.
Participation in online courses, including required videoconferencing sessions, will be monitored, and students are required to participate in annual on-campus state mandated standardized testing.
Students can participate in clubs and athletics at their base school, and tutoring will be available via videoconferencing and face-to-face.
Drop-Offs & After School Care
All three schools will utilize gyms, cafeterias, hallways, and outside areas as much as possible in adherence to ADPH guidelines.
Assemblies, Clubs, Athletics & Field Trips
Pep rallies, assemblies, field trips and award ceremonies are – at least temporarily – not allowed, and club activities may be limited according to ADPH guidelines.
Athletic Events TBA
Athletic events will be scheduled and regulated in accordance to guidance provided by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, and they body has not made a determination.
Breakfast & Lunch & Fountains
A rotation of cafeterias, classrooms, and outside dining areas will be used to promote social distancing during lunch. All meals will be served in pre-packaged disposable containers, and a contactless payment system will be used for both breakfast and lunch. Cafeteria tables will be sanitized between each lunch period.
Filling Stations Instead Of Water Fountains
Water fountains will be refitted as water bottle filling stations and students are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles. Hallways will be divided into two lanes to provide greater social distancing and students will not share supplies such as scissors, crayons and glue.
In Class Protocals
While in class, students will sit facing the same direction, and desks will be separated as much as possible. Sanitizer and disinfectant will be available throughout the schools, including every classroom. High touch areas including desks, door handles/knobs, and water bottle fill stations will be disinfected throughout the day with hospital grade sanitizer and disinfectant.
Students and staff are encouraged to bring their own face covering to school and wear it when social distancing is not possible. But face coverings are not required.
Wear Clothes You Can Exercise In
Students will not dress out for PE classes, but they are encouraged to wear or change into shoes appropriate for physical activity. Only games and sports with minimal physical contact will be played.
In Case Of Unexpected Closing
If schools are closed unexpectedly, students will take their school issued devices iPads for K-8 and MacBooks for 8-12). District provided hotspots will be available to students who do not have Wi-Fi at home.
Taking The Bus
To reduce the number of students on each bus, parents are encouraged to transport their child, but buses will have hand sanitizer and masks available and each driver will be provided with a face shield, mask, and gloves.
Students will have assigned seats; family members will be seated together, and buses will unload from front to back to minimize student contact. Drivers will open roof hatches and/or windows to keep fresh air circulating during the bus route and all buses will be disinfected after each trip.
Any visitor who goes beyond the front office will be required to complete a health survey, including a temperature check, and wear a face covering when working with students.
Make Sure Sicks Kids Stay Home
A student who presents COVID-19 symptoms during the school day will be quarantined until the student leaves campus. Parents should check their child’s temperature every morning and keep their child at home if the child has a temperature of 100.4 or higher. Parents should monitor for symptoms like cough, congestion, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, chills, or gastrointestinal issues. Parents should notify the school nurse as soon as possible if their child is staying home from school due to COVID-19. These absences will not impact truancy.
In the case of a positive COVID-19 test of a student or staff member, school officials will follow current state guidelines. The GSS plan does outline specific procedures for students and staff diagnosed with or exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last two weeks and for students and staff showing symptoms.