After much deliberation, the Union County School District has developed its plan for a safe, but traditional return to school this fall.

The school district released its detailed plan, along with a letter explaining its reasoning, to students and parents last Friday.

"We're planning on going with a traditional schedule," newly-appointed Superintendent Russell Taylor said. "We used the input of alot of people. We had a superintendent advisory team, school leadership teams, school teacher advisory teams and we got input from our teachers. We also took a survey of our parents. In that survey, 87 percent of our parents indicated that they would prefer to send their students back to school with a traditional schedule. Every one of those teams also thought that was the best way we could go back to educating our students."

The Union County School District, as most other school districts in the state, had transitioned to a virtual learning environment following Spring Break due to efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. None of the schools returned to in-person classes for the remainder of the year.

According to Taylor, the district's traditional return will follow the existing school calendar. Students will therefore return to school Aug. 6.

"We're going to go back to school with all of our students who choose to go back to a regular schedule," he said. "We are going to offer distance learning to those that can and that want to. We will have alot of safety precautions in place."

Those safety precautions include requiring that employees will be required to wear masks or face coverings except in situations where they can be over eight feet away from students and other times when outdoors or when social distancing can be achieved. The school district will also strongly encourage students to wear face masks, but are not required to do so at this time. Students and staff are also required to go through a temperature check when they arrive at school each day and will be asked to implement social distancing when possible. Signage will also be posted in classrooms, hallways and entrances regarding good hygiene and COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, visitors will be limited and must be screened for symptoms as well.

Taylor said that bus transportation will be provided, but said the current number of students who ride the bus will make social distancing difficult.

"If they need it, we will provide transportation," Taylor said. "We're encouraging all that can provide personal transportation to do so. It will help with social distancing measures to find an alternate means of transportation to and from school. We will have the buses cleaned after every morning shift and every afternoon shift."

Windy Faulkner, assistant superintendent, said the district will also try to group students together to help stop the spread of Coronavirus.

"We're trying to group all siblings together on the bus and students who are in the same classroom, letting them sit together," Faulkner said. "This will help them to be exposed to the least possible amount of people."

Other safety measures the district is taking include retrofitting all of its water fountains with water bottle fillers so that students to limit spread further and having classes eat lunch in their classrooms or outside, rather than the cafeteria.

In the case of moderate or substantial spread of the Coronavirus, Taylor said the district would move to either a hybrid schedule or distance/remote schedule. In order to prepare for both of these contingencies, the district is beefing up efforts to offer WiFi access to its students.

"We will have a page on our website filled with informative videos on using software like Canvas, Google Meet and Google Classroom for our parents and students to prepare if they choose distance learning or if we get to a point where we have to go that route," Taylor said. "We'll also be setting up some WiFi hotspots so that our students who don't have Internet access at home can use it. And all of our students will have either laptops or tablets they can use at home."

For more detailed information regarding the school district' return-to-school plans, go to https://sites.google.com/union.k12.ms.us/ucsd-return-plan/home.

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