SARASOTA, Fla. - For parents and students, as they look ahead to the upcoming school year, the big question is: What will next year look like? In Sarasota County, the 2020 school year will bring changes for students.
Before the governor came out last week encouraging schools to operate at full capacity come this fall, the school district was also considering another proposal that allowed for some students to continue e-learning at home, while spacing out younger students throughout the district to keep them social distanced.
"We are talking about opening schools sort of normally but having some safety guidelines in there," said Sarasota School Board member Shirley Brown.
The new normal would begin as students step onto the school bus. Under proposed guidelines, masks would be required for everyone on board.
Inside the schools, face masks are strongly recommended. Hallways may become one-way. When students walk into classrooms, they may be there to stay.
Instead of students changing classrooms each period, the teachers may be the ones going from room to room.
Students may even be eating lunch as their desks.
"I think there's an opportunity to be more flexible than ever," said board member Bridget Ziegler.
Right now, the district is working to make sure supplies are stockpiled.
"We would provide hand sanitizers, our bus drivers would have masks available for students who forgot their masks that morning," Said acting superintendent Mitsi Corcoran.
To minimize the risk of the virus coming through the door, visits from parents and mentors may be limited. For the sake of time, instead of checking each student's temperature before they step foot into school, the district says they'll need the help of parents.
"To me, if a parent is monitoring their child and can assess they are running a fever, or flush, or not feeling well, if they keep them home then it keeps them and the school community safer," said Corcoran.
On June 8, a task force will meet to go over school board feedback and recommendations. They'll submit a finalized plan so the task force can compile updates.
On June 26, a survey will be distributed to families for feedback on the updated plans. By July 14 the task force will present its reopening plans to the school board during a monthly meeting.
Time is ticking. From barriers on desks to new safety precautions, all must be done before the first school bell rings. That date is now set for August 10.
"We have to be ready. We will get it done whether it's a combination of cabinetry shop or purchasing," said Jody Dumas the executive director of facilities, construction and planning.
More details about the plan are available on the Sarasota County School District's website.