Students are set to return to school this fall: Here’s what they should expect.

On July 31, parents were asked to register their student for either Rockwood’s seated and online hybrid learning plan or for the online learning plan. For students who chose to return to the building this upcoming school year, there are entirely new expectations and circumstances for the learning environment. 

“It starts with any practice that we want to make a norm in our building. Sometimes you can wear hats, you can’t wear hoodies, you enter the cafeteria a certain way, there are lots of expectations. At each of our school buildings we have to make those expectations very clear for students and delineate what that looks like,” Dr. Lisa Counts, Rockwood Assistant Superintendent of Supervision of Schools, said. 

Social distancing will play a large role in keeping students in low contact situations. With students split alphabetically between seated days and semester classes split between quarters, students will have greater opportunities for social distancing and the reduced class sizes will increase safety and security. 

“Social distancing as much as possible and masks are our two main areas of trying to minimize close contact,” Dr. Counts said, “There will be some plexiglass barriers in our more high traffic areas like the welcome center, or the nurse’s office or the cafeteria, our facilities department is planning for plexiglass in those areas. But for every student and every teacher, we’re relying on social distancing and mask-wearing.” 

Social distancing will have its place in the classrooms, and while it may be difficult for students to maintain six feet in the hallways and at lunch, precautions will be taken, like four lunch shifts compared to two, to make it easier for students to spread out and to prevent congestion in certain areas of the school.

Students will be required to wear masks or face coverings in the building, but the expectation for when masks should be worn, or when they are allowed to be taken off has yet to be set and will vary between situations. If a student chooses to not wear a mask, that student can be sent home. 

“I don’t know if it would be a disciplinary action. That’s not a direction we want to head, we don’t want to make this about discipline, we want to make this about school safety,” Dr. Counts said. 

Along with social distancing and masks, the district is also holding families accountable for daily health screenings done at home for students. The health checks are operating on the honor system, as receiving 21,000 forms a day would be taxing to the district’s system, and there will be no other health checks done at the school before entering. School staff is asking that families support them by being accountable for their child’s health and encourage anyone who feels sick to stay home. 

Even with the health checks, mask policy and social distancing when possible, the spread of COVID-19 in schools is still a possibility, which the district is prepared to handle. 

“We have all those processes in place,” Dr. Shelley Willott, Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Support Services, said, “We’ll have to notify the health department and do some contact tracing, that’s the big thing.”

For some students returning to school this fall, the change in the learning environment seems to be worth it, as it would allow students to be back in the building. 

“I believe that the current plan to require masks and socially distance to the best of our ability is a positive plan which allows us to go back to school whereas we wouldn’t be able to if we didn’t follow these guidelines,” Micheal Basler, 11, said, “Personally I wasn’t a fan of full online school so I am glad we are able to return to school even if it’s only two days a week because I feel like it will help me academically more than learning through a Zoom call.”

Despite the steps taken to assure safety in schools, however, it is a harsh contrast to has been occurring outside of the classroom. 

“I think social distancing works to an extent but kids are still seeing each other outside of school and someone will inevitably get the coronavirus, so I think the precautions being taken are just a waste of time.” Rose Dickenson, an incoming freshman, said.

The expectations set for the upcoming school year have been designed to support the Rockwood community and will have staff and students learning in a completely new dynamic. 

“It’s important to remember that we have a system that works for Rockwood and that every place may look a little different because we have various agencies that are weighing in on that and giving us that information. There’s no one size fits all to a lot of these things, it’s how things work for the community, so that’s something we’ll address along the way,” Dr. Willott said.