Lakeland School System Coronavirus/COVID-19 FAQ
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This document is an attempt to frankly and directly communicate what we know about Lakeland School System’s (LSS) response to the COVID-19 pandemic as of March 17, 2020. As everyone reading this knows now, the reality of the situation and the recommended guidance of local, state, and national leaders changes at a dizzying pace every day. One thing remains constant: The number one goal of Lakeland School System is to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our students and employees. Everything else is secondary. That being said, we hope the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are helpful to parents, staff, and community members.
A: LSS has announced closure to limit the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, through Friday, April 24th following the recommendation of Governor Bill Lee. We believe it is highly likely that a longer closure will be necessary. We will continue to monitor and carefully evaluate the latest guidance from state, local, and national health care professionals and government officials.
A: Per procedure, LSS activities are canceled throughout the current closure and any extensions of that closure, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also recommending cancellation of any gatherings of ten or more people for the next through Friday, April 24th. As such, we are working with club and organization sponsors to cancel any scheduled trips or activities that may be planned. We will continue to monitor and respond to the latest recommendations of health care professionals and government officials before extending the current school closure.
In the more short term, we are canceling the in-person new student registration night that was scheduled for Tuesday, March 31st. We will follow up with plans for new students to register online.
A: There are some scheduled activities that are technically beyond the limits of the eight-week CDC recommendation, but it is likely that a number of end of year events will also be canceled in an attempt to limit and/or contain the spread of COVID-19.
A: LSS has a very small number of 12-month central office and school based employees, but all of those employees who were able were asked to immediately begin working from home as of Monday, March 16th to help limit the possible spread of COVID-19. LSS has procedures in place to be sure that essential functions like payroll and accounts payable will still take place. Our in-house maintenance and custodial staff are also working the week of Spring Break, as originally scheduled, to thoroughly clean and sanitize the buildings. As soon as they are done with that work, they will also go home.
A: All employees will continue to be paid in Lakeland School System throughout the currently scheduled and any future scheduled school closures. This includes full and part-time employees as well as certified and classified employees.
A: The most effective way to communicate with school or school system employees during this time is through e-mail. However, we have a system in place to forward messages left on the main lines at both schools and the central office to the appropriate employees. Questions of a general nature can always be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
A: Lakeland School System administration began working on plans for remote learning relatively early in the COVID-19 outbreak, and is continuing to update those plans. In terms of timing, there will not be any rollout of formal remote learning during the week of Spring Break (March 16th-20th) or during the initial closure week of March 23rd-27th. That initial closure week is being covered by “stockpiled days” which are sometimes referred to as “snow days” or “inclement weather days.” They are essentially days on our school calendar that are above and beyond those required by state law. As the school closure (likely) stretches beyond that initial closure week, we anticipate working with our teachers and staff to implement remote learning procedures.
A: It’s important to understand that public school systems in Tennessee are operated under certain guidelines established by the Tennessee legislature and the Tennessee State Board of Education as well as requirements of the federal government. Because of that oversight, there are specific challenges to establishing remote learning procedures that are not applicable to private schools, and colleges and universities, for example. A couple of examples include serving the needs of students with disabilities and maintaining appropriate and legal “attendance” and grading records.
That being said, we have a preliminary plan in place that we believe would serve our students well during an extended closure. In grades 5-8, curriculum and assessment delivery would look and feel very similar to what students in those grades currently experience through their Chromebooks and the use of Schoology, our Learning Management System (LMS). Our teachers in those grades are very familiar with preparing and delivering lessons through a digital platform, and our students are familiar with accessing those lessons. We also anticipate having teachers available during certain hours of each “school day” to assist students as necessary.
In grades K-4, we anticipate utilizing many of the communication systems that our teachers currently utilize. Using existing digital tools and resources, we plan to set up a system of shared grade level folders that would allow teachers to collaborate remotely on activities, assessments, and possible video instruction that would be accessed by students on a daily basis on their own schedules. We will likely survey K-4 households in the coming weeks to determine what homes need access to devices or the internet for remote learning.
We are waiting for guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education regarding remote learning, and may need flexibility from the Tennessee legislature. These conversations are happening right now in real time, and we will adjust our plans according to the guidance of those government leaders. To reiterate, we do not anticipate operationalizing any of these plans any sooner than the week of March 30th.
A: Lakeland School System has suspended its plans for community feeding sites due to the rapidly growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Shelby County and concerns about our ability to keep our employees safe from possible spread of the virus.
A: Our students and faculty are currently on Spring Break. While this is the most unusual Spring Break we may ever experience and it is likely difficult for many to “relax” under these circumstances, we do hope that our students and staff will try to take a break between the productive nine weeks that ended on Friday, and the resuming of academic learning that we anticipate will pick up at some point the last week of March.
We also recommend, to help limit the spread of COVID-19, that students and families practice social distancing as recommended by the CDC and a consensus of local, state, and national leaders. The best guidance available suggests that individuals limit all travel outside the home and interaction with those outside the immediate family to the fullest extent possible.