School Reopening FAQ (Updated July 16, 2020)

Putnam County Public Schools (PCSD) strives to return ALL students back to their brick and mortar sites for the 2020-2021 school year. We know that in these unprecedented times, families and staff have many questions about the reopening of schools in the fall of 2020. Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions are provided here, and we will be adding more information regularly.

New and updated FAQs are marked with the posted date.

General

When does the 2020-2021 school year begin?
The 2020-2021 school year is scheduled to begin on August 10, 2020.

Why are Putnam County Public Schools being reopened when there is a spike in COVID-19 cases?
On Monday, July 6, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran issued an order requiring all public schools, including charters, to open in August for in-person instruction five days a week for all students. Students are not required to go back to school in person, but districts are required to make it available to them. School districts must comply if they want to also provide an alternative form of instruction, such as PCSD Digital offered under the district's current DRAFT reopening plan.

Once I choose a school option for my child(ren), can I change my mind later?
To avoid disrupting instruction for students and staff, we are requesting that parents commit to their choice of either the traditional or PCSD Digital options for at least 9 weeks. If you change your mind after the initial selection period has ended, the District will make an effort to accommodate your request, but it cannot be guaranteed. 

What immunizations are required for the 2020-2021 school year?
Children scheduled to enter Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2020-2021 school year need to be properly immunized or they will not be allowed to enter school.
For more information, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/immunization/children-and-adolescents/school-immunization-requirements/index.html. The District strongly recommends that children get the flu vaccine.

Will parents, volunteers, vendors, and other community partners be allowed on school campuses?
Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, nonessential visitors to campuses will be limited. For Semester 1, parents, volunteers, and visitors will not be present on campus except by appointment. This will be revisited for Semester 2. Visitors with appointments are subject to Raptor/COVID-19 screening, and will be required to wear a face covering.

How can I feel comfortable dropping my Pre-K or Kindergarten student  off at school for the first time? 
In an effort to make the transition to school as safe and as comfortable for young students and parents as possible, Putnam County School District Pre-K and Kindergarten Students will participate in staggered start procedures during the first week of the 2020-2021 school year. 

Kindergarten and Pre-K eligible students will need to be pre-registered before the first day of school.  Please call your child’s zoned school to receive registration information.
Parents of pre-registered students will be contacted by their child’s teacher and assigned a staggered drop off and pick up time which will occur outside of the regular arrival and dismissal times during the staggered start week.  Upon arrival the parent and child will be met and greeted by the teacher and the student will be escorted to class.  This one-on-one and small group time will allow your child to become familiar with safety procedures such as arrival, dismissal, and social distancing in the school setting.  It will also allow teachers to teach daily routines and procedures, and help your child become more familiar with his/her new surroundings.

Please understand that during the first week of school your child’s attendance will vary based on the time you are assigned for staggered start.

How will Meet the Teacher/ Open House be conducted?
Large group gatherings will be restricted until further notice.  These opportunities will be conducted online.  Each school will determine how they will conduct any orientation/parent meeting following CDC guidelines.

Learning Models 

Will a student participating in PCSD Digital (Option #2) be provided a Chromebook?
Yes. A student participating in PCSD Digital (Option #2) may check out a Chromebook from their school if he/she does not have a computer at home. 

How can a parent help their child’s learning?
Engage your child daily in conversations regarding assignments and learning.  If there are concerns, please contact your child’s teacher.

It is important that student contact information is up to date.  Messages are sent to phone numbers and email addresses provided to the school and recorded in Skyward.  It is important that parents monitor communication methods (emails, Facebook, Websites) from both the district and the school so that you can stay abreast of information.

To increase parent involvement and access to student information, parents should sign up through their school for parent access to the following systems:

Skyward- to review grades, attendance and assessment results

Canvas- to view assignments and instructional support

The district website will continue to provide parents with guidance and “how to” videos on our online platforms.

Will the same classes be offered in all instructional models?
As is currently the case, course offerings will vary by school regardless of the model. Additionally, some secondary elective offerings will not be available through PCSD Digital. Specific limitations as it relates to course offerings (mostly secondary in nature) will be forthcoming.

Is PCSD Digital (Option #2) option similar to PCSD Home Learning from this past Spring 2020?
No. Students that opt for PCSD Digital will follow a regular school schedule and will interact with their teachers throughout the school day using web conferencing technology. Daily student-teacher interactions will provide a structure similar to a classroom setting and teachers will facilitate and guide student learning. Additionally, course materials will be consistent across schools and classrooms, limiting the number of platforms students need to access to complete their assignments.

What is the difference between Putnam Virtual School (Option #3) and Florida Virtual School Full Time?
The two options are very similar, but with Putnam Virtual School, the student remains a Putnam County student. Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is its own entity so it is just like if you took your child to another county for school. In Putnam Virtual School, your student’s instructors are from this area or surrounding areas. With Florida Virtual School, the teachers are from all over the state of Florida and possibly other states. We partner with NEFEC as a My District Virtual (MDVS) School provider. When issues and problems arise, PCSD staff can support getting corrections through MDVS. With FLVS Full Time you will not be supported by a PCSD staff member. 

What courses are offered through Putnam Virtual School (Option #3)? 
When you meet with your Putnam Virtual School Counselor the enrollment packet will include this information.  It can also be found using this link

Does Putnam Virtual School (Option #3) provide accommodations for students with IEPs or 504 plans?
All students participation in Putnam Virtual School will have access to many accommodations that naturally occur in the virtual setting. Putnam Virtual School may also be able to provide additional accommodations per a student’s IEP or 504 Plan if the accommodation(s) is/are applicable to the online educational environment. Please note that some accommodations may not be possible to implement in the online educational setting. Putnam Virtual School does not provide any Access Points of the Florida State Standards which provide modified curriculum and assessment options for students with intellectual disabilities or significant cognitive disabilities.

If the student has previously received speech and language services, for example, they will continue to receive those services. Usually the services are provided at their previously zoned school. The parent will be required to provide transportation to the service appointments.  

What if my child gets started and the online format is not working for him/her?
At Putnam Virtual School we recognize that online learning is not the best option for many students. If it is clear within the first 21 days of the student’s enrollment that online learning is not working for the student, Putnam Virtual School administration will request a meeting with the student and parent. At this meeting it is possible the student will be recommended to return to his/her brick & mortar school or some other option.  This recommendation comes with the student’s best interest in mind—Putnam Virtual School wants all students to be successful and if it is clear a student is not being successful, waiting for a change could cause more damage than good to the student. Students who stay past the 21-day deadline will have to wait until the end of the semester to make a change. 

How will students with special needs be accommodated when participating in PCSD Digital (Option #2)?
If an IEP team offers FAPE for a student which can be implemented through the traditional brick and mortar option and the parent rejects the offer of FAPE, then the IEP team will work to align services for digital learning. The Putnam County School District will make a reasonable and good faith effort to provide students participating in PCSD Digital with services outlined in their Individual Educational Plans (IEP) through a Digital Learning Plan developed by their teacher. Our digital learning option states that students may be required to participate in on-site specialized services and progress monitoring. Part of a reasonable and good faith effort to provide services may require students to safely participate in some on-site specialized services.

How are face-to-face services such as speech, language, OT and PT provided?
Students attending brick and mortar schools (Option #1) will receive therapy either individually or in small groups.  Students receiving Speech therapy will be provided the appropriate face covering type so that the therapist/student can view each other's lip movement while at the same time remaining within the appropriate safety protocols.  Students participating in Option #2 and Option #3 will receive therapy virtually by use of either live or recorded therapy sessions.

How will parents be allowed to participate in IEP Meetings?
IEP meetings will be conducted by virtual or telephone participation as much as possible.  This includes school staff.  When parents receive the meeting participation form that gives the date and time of the meeting, there will be contact information on it if a parent can not participate virtually or by phone.  When the parent calls this number they will be given details on how they will be able to participate in the meeting.  It should be recognized by the parent that most of the team will be participating virtually and not in the actual room with the parent. 

Many of our parents took advantage of telephone participation in Spring 2020 and our overall parent participation in IEP meetings was significantly higher than normal.

What if my child receives Deaf/Hard of Hearing services and needs to lip read?
Face coverings that are clear will be provided to the student and the student’s teachers.  

If my child is an ESE student and on Option #2, how will their IEP be implemented?
The student’s classroom teacher, consult teacher, or therapist will develop a Distance Learning Plan or DLP that will explain how the IEP will be implemented virtually.  

How will my child be assessed and how will progress be monitored?
All students attending their brick and mortar school (Option #1) and participating in PCSD Digital (Option #2) will complete the assessments outlined on our district’s 2020-21 uniform assessment calendar. Students participating in PCSD Digital may be required to participate in on-site assessment and progress monitoring to ensure assessment validity.

The Putnam County School District has a progress monitoring system with formative and summative assessments that are predictive of statewide assessment outcomes and provide valid data for use by teachers and leaders when making decisions about student intervention and acceleration. The following assessments and platforms are used district-wide.

Health and Safety

I know attendance is important, should I have my child stay home when sick?
Schools should instruct and enforce that anyone (students and staff) who is sick (any fever, respiratory, or gastrointestinal symptoms) or believe they might have COVID-19 should stay home and separate themselves from other people in the home as much as possible. They should be excluded from school until they can answer YES to all of the following questions: 

  • Has it been at least 10 days since you first had symptoms? 

  • Have you been without fever for three days (72 hours) without taking any medicine for fever? 

  • Has it been three days (72 hours) since your symptoms have improved? 

Students who have been in close contact with someone who has had symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days, monitor themselves for symptoms, and consult with their local health department. Close contact means within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes. If they start having symptoms of COVID-19, they should take the same steps as above to prevent spreading it. 

How is learning affected for a student at a brick and mortar site (Option #1) who must miss school due to COVID-19 or any other illness?
A student at a brick and mortar site (Option #1) will remain assigned with their original class(es) and receive teacher support while at home.  A Chromebook will be checked out to the student if needed, so that they may continue to work in Canvas, PCSD’s Learning Management System.

What social distancing measures will be implemented in schools and District facilities?
PCSD will implement guidelines to ensure every effort is taken to provide social distancing at school site facilities.

Will desks be separated in the classroom?
Per the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC guidelines desks will be separated 3 to 6 feet where possible.

Will face coverings be required at schools and District facilities?
Face coverings will be required in school facilities and on District transportation. The exceptions will be during meals, while engaging in strenuous physical activity, or if there is an underlying health concern for a specific student. In these situations, distancing guidelines will be followed and alternate arrangements may be made.

Will temperature checks be performed prior to entering schools and District facilities?
Based upon the latest recommendations from public health experts, temperature checks for students may be performed when entering the schoolhouse. Parents are strongly encouraged to perform temperature checks at home and to keep children home upon any sign of illness. If a student appears ill while at school, staff will conduct a screening.

What other measures are being implemented to promote health and safety in schools?
Each school has developed strategies to ensure students and employees are able to practice good hygiene while on campus. PCSD has also significantly augmented its cleaning and sanitization regimens for all schools, facilities, and school buses.

What steps will be taken if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
In the event a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the school site will take the following steps:

  • In collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County, the District will utilize a guidance tool to determine if/when school closures may occur, and implement established cleaning protocols.

  • The District will also follow guidance from the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County for any school-wide or community notification that is deemed necessary.

When does PCSD close a classroom/school?
The Department of Health determines this by looking at numbers as well as transmission characteristics. They look for clusters within a school setting and the nature of those exposed, such as younger students. They also look at what’s happening in the surrounding community. There are many factors taken into consideration when they consider a closure of any kind.

What will happen if a school must close due to an outbreak?
Any school closures will be determined in collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County. If a school closure is necessary, a deep cleaning and sanitization will be performed. Schools will reopen after the risk of exposure has been fully evaluated. While schools are closed, students will participate in remote learning at home during the length of closure.

What is the procedure if a child arrives at school exhibiting COVID-19 like symptoms?
Children showing any of the symptoms of COVID-19 below should be sent home: 

Fever (greater than 100.3), cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, vomiting or diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fatigue, headache, congestion or runny nose

While waiting for a sick child to be picked up, the child should stay in a room isolated from others. If the child has symptoms of COVID-19, the health room assistant and/or staff should remain as far away as safely possible from the child (preferably, 6 feet) while maintaining visual supervision. Anyone accompanying the child should wear a mask. The school designee should contact the local county health department for next steps. 

What is the procedure if a child develops COVID-19 like symptoms during the school day?
If a child develops any symptoms of COVID-19 while at the school they should leave the school grounds as soon as possible. While waiting for a sick child to be picked up, the child should stay in a room isolated from others. If the child has symptoms of COVID-19, the health room assistant and/or staff should remain as far away as safely possible from the child (preferably, 6 feet) while maintaining visual supervision. Anyone accompanying the child should wear a mask. 

What mental health services are available for my child?
The PCSD Department of Mental Health Services will continue to provide a blended model of support to students and families, inclusive of in-person and online deployment of mental health services. For additional support, please call the District's main line at 386-329-0538 and to be put in touch with a counselor.

Sanitization

What sanitization measures have been implemented to routinely clean schools and District facilities
School site custodial activities have been adjusted to increase the frequency of sanitizing high‐touch areas. At the end of each day, custodial teams will sanitize areas of the campus, including cafeterias, classrooms, restrooms, gym and locker rooms, offices, and public areas in preparation for the next day of learning.

Meals

How will school meals be served?
The District is committed to ensuring students have access to healthy meals throughout the day. School meals will be distributed in single-use containers or through the cafeteria service line for consumption in the classroom or an alternative space.

If my child is not enrolled in brick and mortar (Option #1), will he/she still be eligible to receive breakfast and free or reduced-price lunch?
Yes, all students enrolled in PCSD school locations, for in-person or PCSD Digital, will be eligible. Students enrolled in PCSD Digital (Option #2) must report to their school site during serving hours to participate. Students enrolled in Putnam Virtual School (Option #3) are not eligible.

Transportation

What safety and social distancing measures will be implemented on school buses?
As the District prepares to transport students this upcoming school year, we will implement strategies such as requiring face coverings while riding the bus. Hand sanitizing stations will also be available on every school bus. School buses are being sanitized daily and between morning and afternoon routes. We will not be reducing bus capacity or reconfiguring bus routes.

Athletics and Activities

Will athletics and extracurricular activities be offered during the 2020-2021 school year?
The District understands the many benefits of extracurricular activities to the overall student experience and will continue to offer opportunities to safely participate, in alignment with current CDC guidelines and Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) rules. A phased plan has been developed for our students to safely engage in athletics and activities.

Will the District offer aftercare at school sites?
The District intends to offer after school care programs where they can be safely accommodated at select schools.

Employee Protection and Support

What measures will be taken to ensure the health and safety of all employees?
The following measures will be taken to ensure the health and safety of all employees:

  • Daily Health Assessments by all employees

  • Distanced Work Stations

  • Social Distancing

  • Physical Barriers

  • Use of Face Coverings

  • Healthy Hygiene Practices/ Hand Washing/Sanitizing

  • Sick employees must stay home

  • Virtual Meetings

  • Avoid sharing of equipment

  • Daily sanitation and cleaning of desks, counters, doors, handles, light switches, bathrooms, water fountains, computer components, phones, furniture, etc.

What will be done to protect employees who have an underlying health condition?
Employees with underlying health condition(s) can request to work in an isolated area to minimize their contact with others. The request will be granted when the needs of the District allow for it. However, if that cannot be done, PCSD will work with the employee to offer other solutions. If the solutions are not acceptable, and the employee is unable or unwilling to work in a ‘traditional’ work setting, then the employee will need to contact Human Resources to discuss leave options.

I know attendance is important, should I stay home from work when sick?
Any employee who is sick (any fever, respiratory, gastrointestinal symptoms, or other symptoms as determined by CDC) or believe they might have COVID-19 should stay home and separate themselves from other people in the home as much as possible. They should not return to work until they can answer YES to all the following questions: 

  • Has it been at least 10 days since you first had symptoms? 

  • Have you been without fever for three days (72 hours) without taking any medicine for fever? 

  • Has it been three days (72 hours) since your symptoms have improved? 

Employees who have been in close contact with someone who has had symptoms of COVID-19 should monitor themselves for symptoms and consult with their local health department for further guidance. Close contact means within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes without a face covering. If they start having symptoms of COVID-19, they should take the same steps as above to prevent spreading it.

What type of leave is available if I am required to self-quarantine?
Beginning April 1, 2020 the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) was enacted that guarantees employees up to ten (10) days of paid leave for COVID-19 related absences through December 31, 2020. This is in addition to employees normal earned sick leave.

What happens if I have possibly been exposed to COVID-19 while at work?
The district will begin working with the Health Department to facilitate contact tracing for anyone who may have had significant contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19. (Significant contact currently means within 6 feet for 15 consecutive minutes without a face covering.) Through contact tracing, employees would be informed of steps they need to take depending on the circumstance of each case.

Deep cleaning/sanitizing of facilities would be carried out as appropriate, and the affected areas locked down for 24 hours. The district would consult with the Health Department on any additional steps that would need to be taken to promote the safety of others at the school/worksite.

What additional resources and support are provided to employees?
Employees experiencing increased anxiety, fear, or emotional stress surrounding COVID-19 may seek assistance from the District’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by calling 800-854-1446 or visit www.unum.com/lifebalance.