District, Lafayette respond to FAQs about upcoming school year

Morgan Vehige and Juli Mejia

The Rockwood School District (RSD) released its back-to-school plan on July 20. The plan consists of two options for students:  in-person learning in a reduced capacity model or a full online learning schedule. RSD  has also provided specific details on safety precautions, academic plans, emotional support and included responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the district website.

The primary guardian in each Rockwood household should have received an email on July 28 that contains a mandatory return to the school registration form. The form must be filled out for each child who attends a Rockwood school by Friday, July 31 to indicate which back-to-school option the student will be selecting. This will allow each school to make staffing changes needed to meet the online and in-person demands.

The Lancer Feed asked people what questions they had regarding the return to school this fall and then got answers from several district officials and the Rockwood website.

Those answers are provided below:

“It starts with educating the staff and students about what the expectation is and this is what our new normal will look like in our school,” Rockwood Assistant Superintendent of Supervision of Schools Lisa Counts said.

Q: How will the all online education plan work?
A: Rockwood’s Online Education program will vastly differ from the Alternative Learning Program (ALP) in the 2020 spring semester. While students will have teachers, it won’t necessarily be teachers they would have if they were to attend school in-person. There will be specific teachers who will just be responsible for the online courses and work specifically with those students but students may have a teacher from another school. The course curriculum will be the same as if the student were to attend school. Class sizes and grading are also similar to in-person schooling.

Q: How will in-person hybrid plan work?
A: Students will attend school two days of the week and attend four classes. Students with the last name A-L will attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays while students with last names M-Z will attend on Wednesdays and Fridays. On days that students are not in school, teachers will assign work based on the curriculum for them to complete by themselves. On Mondays, all students are required to attend Zoom classes with their teachers according to a specific schedule. The class schedule for in-person days and Mondays is here:  Schedule. Again, unlike the spring, attendance on Mondays in the Zoom meetings is mandatory and students will have specific assignments to complete on their days they are not in attendance.

Q: How will the quarter system work?
A: First quarter will be run from Aug. 24-Oct. 23 and students will take their 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th Hour classes. Second quarter will run from Oct. 26-Jan. 14 (remember this is the first year that first semester actually ends after Winter Break) and will include the student’s  2nd, 4th and 6th hours. Students will leave earlier in the day second quarter. There will be no Flex time and all classes will be blocked. This way, semester-long classes can be condensed to a quarter, and students will be able to focus on only a few classes at a time.

Q: Will students be allowed to change their minds about their schooling choice after already choosing an option?
A: Yes. Students will be allowed to change, but only at the beginning of the next quarter.

Q: When will students receive their schedules?
A: Just like in previous years, students will receive their class schedules a few weeks prior to the beginning of the school year. Once schools have the information, they will communicate when and how to access schedules.

Q: Will all students and staff members be required to social distance and wear masks in the school?
A: From the RSD website: “In order to maximize health and safety all staff, students and visitors will wear cloth face coverings at school.
Students will bring their own cloth face coverings to wear at school. Students who are unable to bring a mask to school will be provided a mask. Cloth face coverings will be provided for all staff and PPE (personal protective equipment) will be provided to staff depending on their position (nurses, custodians, etc).  Cloth face coverings should be cleaned after use each day and if damp or dirty. Rockwood recognizes that some students and staff will be unable to wear a mask due to medical conditions, social-emotional needs and/or when the risk of wearing a mask would outweigh the benefit. Rockwood will work with students to educate them on the benefits and proper wearing of masks and/or develop a safe alternative when needed and possible.”

Additionally, staff members will be placed throughout the building to ensure that students are maintaining social distancing standards as well as wearing their masks correctly. Administrators noted that while they will do their best to maintain these guidelines, students will also need to hold responsibility for following the approved guidelines.

Q: Will fall sports and activities continue like normal? Will fans be able to attend games?
A: Currently, since RSD is allowing students to attend in-person school, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) is allowing all sports and activities to continue. Whether a student chooses an in-person or the online learning option, they are still able to participate in a MSHSAA-sponsored activity. However, schools are going to avoid large gatherings of students like assemblies and field trips. With that, it is uncertain if fans are going to be allowed to watch games.

Lunch at Lafayette will be broken up into four shifts in order to reduce traffic and allow students to socially distance as they eat. (Sophia Scheller)

Q: How will lunches work?
A: For high school students, the lunch shift has been divided into four 30 minute blocks, the first starting at 10:11 a.m. and the last ending at 12:11 p.m. This is to shorten the wait time in the lunch lines and allow for students to spread out in the Commons as well. The lunch line will have wrapped items, no restaurant pizza and no salad bar. Students will not be allowed to use cash to purchase food and there will be traffic patterns to get them through the food lines.

Q: What happens if someone is sick or if someone gets COVID-19?
A: If a student, teacher or any other staff member was to test positive for COVID-19, they would have to self-quarantine and immediately report the situation to the school. Once reported, RSD would notify the Health Department, do contract tracing and provide a deep-cleaning of the school. After then, they will access the situation and move on from there.

Q: How is Rockwood addressing the needs of students with 504/IEP plans? How will their learning plans be tailored to their specific needs as in the past?
A: Any student who receives special services, like the gifted program, special education and ESOL, will all continue to receive those services regardless of the model they are in. While it may be different, they will continue on with their instruction and adapt to the new environments.

Q: How will Advanced Placement (AP) classes work?
A: Students will continue with AP classes just as any other class during the year. For the testing, the College Board has yet to make any announcements about what that will look like.

Q: What will the bathrooms look like at school?
A: The Lafayette administration understands there are not a lot of bathrooms in the school, and at times like passing periods where there’s a lot of people, changes will have to be made. Those changes have yet to be finalized, but they are working on some procedures to avoid crowding in those areas

Q: Is Cadet Teaching still happening?
A: Yes, but the program will look different than years past. But, just as teachers have to adapt to their new teaching environment, so will Cadet Teachers.

Q: Is Freshman Orientation canceled?
A: No, the date has not changed. There are many options on how to have it, whether that be in-person or virtual, and Lafayette will provide information to students and parents later in August.

Q: How are high school classes going to work for ECP kids?
A: The students who are in the Early College Partnership program are to look to their college for guidance on the matter.

Q: Are school dances being offered this year?
A: While the dances haven’t been canceled, they aren’t looking likely to happen. With the new St. Louis County guidelines, gatherings of over 50 people aren’t allowed.

Q: How will choir/band/orchestra look? How is the hybrid schedule impacting classes like those?
A: Teachers in those programs are looking to change their curriculum pacing to fit the new schedules. With the concern for safety and distancing, there are areas like the Commons and Multi-Purpose Room where they would be able to have those classes.

Q: Will the Cookie Stand and Lancers Landing remain open?
A: They are not quite ruled out for the school year; however, major changes will be made to follow any and all health guidelines.

Editors Note: These questions presented here were answered on July 28. Due to the constant changes from St. Louis County and health department officials as they make new recommendations related to COVID-19, plans for the opening of Rockwood schools could also change.  All the information provided here either came from Principal Karen Calcaterra, Assistant Superintendent of Supervision of Schools Lisa Counts,  Assistant Superintendent Learning and Support Services Shelley Willott or the Rockwood website. For the information page, click here, for the schedule, click here, and for Rockwood’s answers to their most frequently asked questions, click here.