Sarasota County school officials considering staggered class schedules, school bus temp checks

Sarasota County Schools is one of the many districts across the Bay Area now contending with what school operations may look like in the fall. 

During a virtual board meeting Tuesday, school board members asked questions to superintendent Mitsi Corcoran about contingency plans for reopening schools at some point, possibly with CDC physical distancing restrictions still in place. 

While nothing was decided Tuesday, nearly everything appeared to be on the table, from staggered schedules to taking temperatures on buses. School leaders also discussed what they would do with the thousands of laptops the district loaned to students for the remainder of the current school year. 

Corcoran said the county does not have enough buses or drivers to pick up all students while keeping physical distancing practices in place. The district also doesn't have enough classrooms or teachers. 

“Currently it’s nine people in a room with the teacher—the most we could ever have,” Corcoran explained to the board during Tuesday’s meeting. “So that gets me to K through (grade) 3. But then you go to 22 students in 4 through 8, 25 students in 9 through 12 and you get into elective courses that are not required to have only 25 kids. Then you have some foreign language classes where they have 30 or 35 kids. So am I going to have to hire a whole glut of teachers just to have them learn?” 

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Staggered scheduling in which students spend half of their time doing distanced learning and the other half on campus would likely mean hiring more teachers. Corcoran said even a lot of divided classes would exceed the current classroom occupancy guidelines. 

There was also discussion surrounding bus drivers taking students’ temperatures before letting them onto the bus, which raises the question of what drivers are supposed to do if a student has a fever and their parents are not with them. As for the district’s fast-approaching summer programming, Corcoran said a team of administrators is working on it. 

“We know we have a large number of students who, either they are seniors who are potentially graduating but may not be quite able to, we’ve got to get them caught up in order to be able to graduate. We have students who may have incomplete as a result of distance learning," Corcoran said. "We have students who may have scored a one or a two on the FSA, but they haven’t had to take the test. So, we are trying to identify those students who have the most need.”

As evidenced by Tuesday’s discussions, board members have not yet arrived at any major conclusions on how best to proceed amid changing guidance from the CDC and state health officials. 
The Sarasota County School Board will meet again on May 19.

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