When Grades K-2 Sippican School students return from winter vacation week this coming Monday, February 22, they will be back in school full-time. In preparation for their return, Sippican Principal Marla Sirois held an informational Zoom meeting on February 11 to explain and illustrate the changes and take questions.
While Sippican’s return to fully in-person learning for Grades K-2 will do away with the hybrid model for those grades, families on a fully remote model can continue as fully remote. Families on a fully remote model and those home-schooling their K-2 children can choose to enroll in full, in-person learning by notifying the school by February 11. Hybrid-model students were automatically enrolled in full, in-person learning.
Sippican is maintaining a 6-foot distancing through the pivot, and there are red spots on the floor so children can know if their desks are in their intended positions. Other areas on the floors are marked with tape, so students know where to take certain materials. The floors at Sippican are now marked with large, color-coded dots, cones, and the aforementioned improvisations.
As long as there is a chance at more snow days, students will be sent home with their iPads.
“I know all of you have worked and waited so long to have your children (at school) full in person, so I would hate to see just simple miscommunication or illnesses, things that can be avoided. The bus, the school’s keeping the 6 feet of distancing, but the bus does not, and they haven’t the whole year; they’ve done about 3 feet,” said Sippican School Nurse Meagan Morais, who expects with more children riding the bus that contract tracing might increase. “The only way for us to keep this rolling is to work together. My goal is the same as yours, to keep them in school.”
All three kindergarten classes have stayed in the same location, but more students could affect that plan.
Both Grade 1 classes have moved, one meeting in the band room and the other to the library. “These classes are a little bit bigger … 22 and 23,” explained Sirois. Kindergarten has three teachers, and Grade 1 has two teachers.
Second graders have also seen a change, as two of the three classes were in rooms divided by a partition that has been opened to add space for both rooms. The third class is now in what had been the Title 1 room.
Asked what drop-off and pick-up will look like, Sirois said the plan is subject to change based on discussions with the police and fire departments. Up until the vacation week, buses have been pulling up to the front of the school and letting off students who keep a 6-foot distance walking into the building.
For parents and guardians driving to drop off or pick up their kids, students will wait in staging areas in color-coded groups. Cars display school-issued name cards, and staff calls out the color and the name to alert the student that their ride is waiting directly outside.
“So if you are going to be sending your child back and you are going to be a pick-up-drop-off family, then you would let the office know that, and we would have the cards made for you, and we would send them home, so you have them,” said Sirois, stressing that the school-issued, nametag cards also signify authenticity on the part of the parent/guardian. “If you’ve given your card to someone, it’s fine. I have had a few families lose theirs and make their own; it doesn’t work. If it’s not our font on our card, we will card you and make sure that whoever’s in that car is allowed to pick up your child.”
Asked about a cap on classrooms and staffing, Sirois said Sippican is being joined by one student who had been on fully remote and another who had been home-schooled.
“We’ve only had two at this point that have switched over. I’m not saying there won’t be more, but I’m sort of at a day-to-day with that,” said Sirois, indicating that there are different scenarios for each circumstance.
First-grade classrooms have more room to expand class size, and the seven fully remote kindergarten students at Sippican can be easily accommodated. But if other kindergarten-age children currently involved in private programs transfer into Sippican, Sirois said adding a teacher might become necessary. Sirois also estimates that fully remote Grade 2 students can be accommodated under the new, fully in-person arrangement.
“Something I encounter frequently that many people aren’t aware of [is] they’re not aware of the travel order in general, or they’re not aware that it applies for second residences out of state,” said Morais, who added that families have been doing an excellent job so far communicating when their kids are not feeling well or when they are traveling. “Not coming from a place of judgment or anything else, but I just would like to communicate if we could all keep working together with the open communication and letting me know and getting the kids tested and getting them back in.”
Sippican’s travel order is posted on the school website, along with information on testing sites with fast turnarounds.
Asked what students can access while under quarantine and if their schoolwork counts for attendance, Sirois said, “We will do our best to work with you and to provide you with work that you can come to pick up at the building. There may be opportunities that will be available in the Google classroom. We need to give it a couple of weeks after vacation to sort of see what that looks like.”
Sirois said she met to talk curriculum with two of the three grade levels affected and projected out the next month with the intention to meet again. Classes were departmentalized to make the process more expedient.
“We need to stay focused on the curriculum, but unfortunately … safety is going to come first,” said Sirois. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment for those kiddos after vacation when their room is full of all the people they haven’t seen since March.”
Morais told the meeting that parents would receive a call if their child is displaying any type of respiratory symptoms or a cough. A headache without any other symptoms will not require a phone call. “Most of the time, they’re not drinking enough; even the adults are forgetting to drink…. Usually, I just have them hydrate.” Likewise, Morais said a stomachache is okay, but not nausea or diarrhea. Preexisting conditions will require letters from pediatricians.
Assistant Principal Sean Persico reminded parents that the water fountains at the school are blocked off and asked that students be provided with water bottles. “We’ll always be able to provide water for our students, but our water fountains are closed,” he said.
Students are also asked to bring boots and snow pants every day for potential outdoor mask breaks. Sirois recommended leaving that equipment at school.
Parents and guardians are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with any updates on their children for pick-up after school. “We need to have information for all updates and changes, specifically for afternoon pick-up,” said Sirois. “Sometimes kids will be taking the bus, sometimes maybe you weren’t on the bus, so maybe you’re adding daycare. Whatever the children are doing the days we don’t already know, we absolutely need to know that so things can run smoothly and not seem like the first day of school when we get back from vacation.”
Countryside Child Care of Rochester will be offering Monday before and after-school care and parents and guardians can also check with the YMCA.
By Mick Colageo