Both Hawkins Co. and Rogersville City Schools announced their fall reopening plans on Wednesday, and both are marked by three phases that directly correlate to the amount of community spread of COVID-19.
These three phases outline whether schools will remain open and the way in which teachers will deliver instruction to their students.
The plan can be read in its entirety at http://www.rcschool.net/.
Taking community spread into account
Similar to the Hawkins Co. Schools plan, RCS’s plan outlines three possibilities for school opening in the fall. All three correlate with community spread and will take public health recommendations into consideration.
“Within each of the pandemic scenarios above, the virus will manifest in local communities in one of three ways at any given point in time,” reads the plan.
The plan takes the “Basic Reproductive Number” into account, which can often be seen abbreviated as “Ro” throughout the plan. This “refers to the number of new infections resulting from a single infected person.”
When Ro is greater than 1, each infected person is spreading the virus to more than one other person, and the virus is increasing in the population.
When Ro is equal to 1, each case spreads the virus to one other person, and the number of cases in a population stays constant over a period of time.
When Ro is less than 1, each infected person transmits the virus to less than one other person, and over time, case counts will decrease in the population.
“Schools will be able to open if Ro is less than 1 and remain open if transmission remains low,” reads the plan. “If Rogersville experiences community spread of the virus on a widespread basis such that Ro is much greater than 1, then schools will likely be required to close to help break transmission chains. And if Ro remains close to 1, or spread is localized to very discrete areas, then closures become school- and situation-dependent.”
Three operating phases Green: defined as very few, if any, active COVID-19 cases locally, with a Ro significantly less than 1. This level of community spread corresponds to late Phase Three to Phase Four.
In this phase, changes to class sizes, spacing, movement and dining are unnecessary.
Yellow: Ro is close to or equal to 1 with a significant amount of circulating disease in the given geographic area. This level of community spread corresponds to Phase Two to Three.
Under this phase, desks will all be facing the same direction toward the front of the classroom with as much space between them as possible. Students should either wear masks, use a physical barrier to the side of desks, or distance students six feet apart. Teachers should try to maintain six feet of spacing between themselves and students as much as possible but should wear masks if closer than six feet. Classroom windows should be open when possible and conditions allow. Assemblies of less than 50 students at a time are discouraged but allowed as long as facemasks remain in use. Large-scale assemblies of more than 50 students should be discontinued.
The flow of foot traffic will also be directed in only one direction if possible. If one-way flow is not possible, hallways can be divided with either side following the same direction. Efforts should be made to try and keep six feet of distance between persons in the hallways.
Face masks should be worn at all times in hallways. Staggered movements at incremental intervals should be used if feasible to minimize the number of persons in the hallways as able. Floor tape or other markers should be used at six-foot intervals where line formation is anticipated.
Red: expected when case counts in Rogersville have increased or accelerated rapidly, Ro is significantly greater than 1, and leaders have decided to return to Phase 1, or complete shutdown of the city.
Under this phase, schools are closed.
Face masks and hygiene
Under the green phase, no personal protective equipment is required, and students and staff are asked to wash hands per normal operating status.
Under the yellow phase, all staff and students should wear face masks when they are in common areas, including moving between classrooms; masks may be homemade or disposable level one (basic) grade surgical masks; N95 respirators are not necessary, except for nurses and custodial staff cleaning and disinfecting an area exposed to a positive case.
Students should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after changing any classroom; teachers in the classroom should wash their hands or use sanitizer every time a new group of students enters their room.
Privacy or barrier screens may also be placed at the side of desks in classrooms.
The plan further states that school officials will meet weekly with public health officials and city leaders to discuss case numbers and community spread. It also specifies that the level of community spread and the basic reproductive number are the two factors that should carry the most weight when making decisions. However, numerous other factors will be taken into consideration.
The plan also goes into great detail on what extracurricular, athletic and dining activities will look like under each phase. To read the plan in its entirety, visit http://www.rcschool.net/.