Dear RPS Families & Staff,
As I mentioned in my message yesterday, there will be regular updates as we gear up for the new school year. Today I want to share with you two important items. The first is around adjustments to school start times for students who will be participating in the hybrid model and the second is a little more background on why we chose this particular hybrid model.
Start Times & Transportation
In order to provide bus transportation for as many students as possible and follow all safety guidelines, we needed to reduce bus capacity by 50% (one student per seat) and add time to clean each bus between every route. This means we need more routes and that each route now takes 45 minutes (with cleaning time) as opposed to 30 minutes. On top of that, we continue to face a shortage of bus drivers. This regional driver shortage has been persistent over the last few years.
With all of that to consider, we needed to adjust some of the start and end times for our schools. We will finalize the schedule as soon as we have final transportation requests and routes. The current proposal is as follows.
- Centennial Elementary: 7:30 a.m. start time (40 minutes earlier)
- Richfield Dual Language School: 8:15 a.m. start time (35 minutes later)
- Richfield STEM School: 7:30 a.m. start time (10 minutes earlier)
- Sheridan Hills Elementary: 8:15 a.m. start time (5 minutes earlier)
- Richfield Middle School: 9 a.m. start time (30 minutes later)
- Richfield High School: 9 a.m. start time (30 minutes later)
- Richfield College Experience Program (TBD)
Additionally, we are removing the “hazardous cross zones" from our transportation boundaries with the addition of school patrols or crossing guards at hazardous crossings.
If you have any transportation-related questions, please visit our transportation web page. A new boundary map that reflects the removal of the hazardous cross zones will be posted early next week.
Richfield Distance Learning Academy
All our families have a choice. For those of you who do not want your child in schools, our distance learning program is a great option. Our highly-qualified teaching staff has been planning and preparing all summer for this. They have new tools, new activities and more synchronous (live) instruction. Please note that all high school students are eligible to participate in athletics, including students enrolled through distance learning. A detailed email about fall athletics was sent to high school families earlier today.
We have received several questions from families wanting to know more about the hybrid model we selected. We know that most students learn best when they are in the classroom with peers and teachers. But we also know that current health conditions won’t allow students to be in school full time. As we were reviewing options for a hybrid model, there were several factors that went into the creation and selection.
When creating this model, we took into consideration:
- Best practices for children’s mental health
- Developmental needs of children at different ages
- Maintaining 50% capacity or lower in classrooms
- Staff preferences and allowing teachers who prefer distance learning the opportunity to continue this model of instruction
When selecting this model, we relied heavily on survey responses from families, students and staff. This model was based on the most popular hybrid option in our survey and is the most manageable when it comes to staffing (we have many teachers who prefer online instruction this year because they or a family member are at high-risk for COVID-19).
When it comes to how many days each student group can be in the school, we not only looked at capacity (maintaining 50% capacity or less in schools and on busses) but also on our ability to keep students in small, consistent learning groups or “pods.” This minimizes the number of people students are in contact with and, should there be a positive case of COVID-19, limits the number of potential people who are exposed.
With our elementary students, because they already spend most of their day with one teacher, it is easy to keep them in a single pod throughout the day. This is one of the reasons why we are able to offer more on-site instruction for elementary students.
At the secondary level, students have classes with multiple teachers throughout the day and no single group of students has the same schedule, making pods not possible for core instruction. The only safe way to bring in our secondary students and have them in these year-long pods is with an advisory day where students can learn about career and college readiness, participate in social-emotional activities, receive specific academic supports and other activities that allow them to stay in the same small group. Because of this, it was necessary to have our 6-12 students online four days a week for their core content and in-person one day a week for advisory along with a large number of support-based programs.
As we finalize plans for students who receive special education services, we are proposing up to four days per week of in-person support for students in grades 3-12 (based on the student’s IEP and individual needs). Additional details will be provided to families who have students receiving these services soon.
As a reminder, all families who completed the Fall 2020 Back to School Survey will receive a verification email this weekend to confirm or change your enrollment choice. All families have the option of either the hybrid model or 100% distance learning. If you did not complete the survey or you do not receive the email, you can contact your child’s school next week and let them know your preference for school this fall.
Next week, following the August 17 school board meeting, we will send another update on plans and next steps.
Enjoy your weekend.
Superintendent Steven Unowsky