Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services – ESSER
Richland #44 School District
Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan
The purpose of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund is to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s students by addressing students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.
This plan will describe how Richland #44 School District will ensure continuity of services for students while also maintaining health and mitigation strategies to keep students and staff safe. For any questions about this plan, contact Superintendent Dr. Britney Gandhi at 701-372-3713 or Britney.firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the summer of 2020, the state of North Dakota required school districts to create two plans to start the new school year: a Health and Safety Plan and a Distance Learning Plan. Our team worked on creating these plans over summer with the input of Richland County Health Department, a team of staff, and board members during several working sessions during the summer of 2020. Input from parents was gathered through surveys, an informational webinar and through the opportunity for public comment at board meetings.
The school board approved both plans at their August 12, 2020, meeting. Copies of both plans can be found at this link on our website.
We returned to in-person instruction on August 30, 2020, and never shut our doors thanks to the diligent efforts of our staff, students and parents following our return to learning plans. Our Health and Safety and Distance Learning plans were consistently followed during the 2020-2021 school year. All mitigation strategies were implemented, and we saw a major decline of cases in the spring of 2021. At the Richland #44 school board meeting on May 12, 2021, the board voted to suspend the plan effective June 1, 2021 (beginning of summer break). The suspension of the plan does not indicate that all health and safety protocols are dismissed. We have learned so much in the past year and will continue several strategies, as outlined below. We are also prioritizing student needs and will outline our plan for addressing those needs.
Health and Safety Strategies
Throughout the pandemic, Richland #44 School District has prioritized the health and safety of students and staff during the return to in-person learning. Following these strategies allowed us to stay in school and keep everyone safe. Below is a description of the safety strategies we utilized and the current status of implementation.
Universal and correct wearing of masks
All students, staff and visitors were required to wear masks for the duration of our 2020-2021 school year. Later in the spring, elementary students had the option to remove them during outdoor recess. Students, staff, and visitors still have the option now to wear masks when on school grounds.
Teachers and custodial staff refigured all classrooms during the summer of 2020 to create physical distancing in classrooms. Elementary students remained in classroom groups throughout the day and did not comingle with other groups. Lunches were reconfigured so that elementary students ate as a class and Jr/Sr high school students sat at tables of four with students in their grade only. Students could only use lockers twice a day to avoid intermixing of grade levels during class periods. Moving forward, Richland #44 will monitor the need for physical distancing to reduce transmittable moments as needed.
Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
Stations are made available throughout school buildings which included hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, anti-bacterial hand soap, and adult and child disposable masks. Coughing and sneezing into a tissue or sleeve, proper disposal of used tissues and proper handwashing are stressed to students and staff. Posters and signage will continue to be used throughout all school buildings.
Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities
HVAC upgrades, water filtration system upgrades, and deep cleaning measures were put in place at each school. Daily sanitizing and disinfecting became a daily practice in all buildings and on school buses, and is a practice we will continue.
Contact tracing occurred all school year led by school administrators and Richland County Health Department. We will continue to contact trace through the county and state if we have any further positive cases.
Diagnostic and screening testing
COVID-19 testing was a practice we put into place this school year. Parents had the option for students to be tested on site and staff were voluntarily tested every Monday morning using BinaxNow tests. This did catch some positive cases and helped us to prevent spread. We will continue to encourage staff and students to be tested if displaying any symptoms.
Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students
Educator vaccine clinics took place in April at our county health department. Staff were encouraged to be vaccinated and were permitted to leave early to make their appointments. A student vaccine clinic was held at our high school in May and several students opted to be vaccinated.
Appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities
We were not made aware of any students with disabilities who needed specific accommodations related to our health and safety measures. However, we will make any and all accommodations needed in the future if this arises.
Continuity of Services
Richland #44 School District has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs.
When we returned to in-person learning in the fall of 2020, we knew that student achievement had declined due to the drastic change in educational setting in the final quarter of the 2020 school year when students learned from home. We started the school year two days later to give educators time to test students’ reading levels and to start determining math achievement also.
Consequently, we have put the following items into place to meet the needs of students’ learning.
- Refined assessment protocols to determine areas of need.
- Identification of student gap areas in reading and math
- Creation of reading pathways for multi-tiered systems of support
- Hiring of an interventionist
- Restructuring of schedules to allow for interventions
- Purchase of intervention materials
- Staff training and professional development for intervention implementation
Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs
Student and staff mental health has also been at the forefront of our planning during this unusual time in our world’s history. Below is a list of what we have put into place (and will continue to have in place) for students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.
- Readily available counselor check-ins with a small counselor to student ratio (less than 150 students per counselor)
- Contract with The Village for deeper mental health and counseling services that extend beyond the role of a school counselor. This year, we had several students consistently meeting with a Village counselor via teletherapy at school, drastically reducing the amount of missed class time.
- Student surveys on mental health and youth behavior; results were presented to staff and the school board to find ways to support students in the areas in which they are struggling.
- Targeted discussion of student needs at staff meetings.
Meal services have been provided since March of 2020 through bus transportation. Student transportation services to and from school have been provided during each reopening phase in compliance with CDC guidelines. Extracurricular and athletic activities were resumed for full competition under appropriate health mitigation strategies beginning this school year.
Opportunity for Public Comment
In developing the return to learning plans, our team worked with the input of Richland County Health Department, a team of staff, and board members during several working sessions during the summer of 2020. Input from parents was gathered through surveys, an informational webinar and through the opportunity for public comment at board meetings.