Back to School: How Rockwall ISD is keeping kids safe during in-person learning

Rockwall ISD

ROCKWALL, TX – August 26, 2020 — With the COVID-19 pandemic comes a lot of uncertainty about how schools will keep kids safe as they return to class this fall. Under the guidance of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Rockwall ISD has worked hard in partnering with the county, city officials and the school board to implement safety measures to help keep students and staff reasonably safe during in-person learning.

“Our hope is that throughout this school year parents will work with us in helping to keep everybody safe by making sure their child has no symptoms before they come to class,” said Rockwall ISD Superintendent John Villarreal. “We’ve designed our instructional model to be using the same type of systems at school campuses. So if there is an intermittent closure of a campus due to the presence of COVID-19, students can have that same instructional model at home as well until they can return. We’re building efficiencies in how we operate so we can go in and out of that academic pivot between in-person and remote learning. We’ve re-engineered our schools in a way that provides a reasonably safe environment, and that is also happening with all of our programs, from robotics to athletics to band.”

Here are some of the ways Rockwall ISD has prepared its campuses and operations in response to COVID-19.

In-person learning at Rockwall ISD campuses

As students return to class for in-person learning, here’s a look at how Rockwall ISD is keeping both them and teachers safe and healthy on campus:

  • Hand sanitizers are set up at the entrances of every school building as well as in each classroom. The district encourages students to use these whenever possible to help stem the spread of germs.
  • Students are welcome to bring refillable water bottles to stay hydrated, which they can safely refill at touchless water bottle refill stations installed at each campus.

  • Markers with arrows placed on floors throughout each campus are helping students and staff practice social distancing (at least 6 feet apart) whenever possible.

  • Elementary students received hands-on individual learning material kits for both in-person and remote learning. The kits will ensure that students continue to receive a high level of instruction that looks familiar to them as they navigate online learning.
  • Protective plexiglass dividers installed on classroom desks will help keep students and teachers safe during learning time.

  • When possible, elementary students will remain with their homeroom classes during instructions, specials, lunch and recess. Weather permitting, classes are maximizing their time outside for specials such as gym and recess.
  • Markers in the cafeteria indicate where elementary students need to stand for social distancing during lunchtime. Grab-and-go breakfast and lunches are available for students to minimize contact. Plexiglass containers installed in the cafeterias are also working to keep students safe while they eat.
  • For high school lunch procedures, students can scan their IDs for a touchless system. Tables are spread out in the cafeteria to ensure adequate social distancing.
  • Stairwells at campuses also include markers with arrows to indicate foot traffic flow and ensure that students don’t cross paths in a tight stairwell.
  • The ROCK after school program continues to operate for students from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at each elementary school. The program utilizes the same social distancing and cleaning measures as campuses across the district.

Enhanced cleaning measures

With many students returning to schools for in-person learning, Rockwall ISD has greatly improved its cleaning procedures to keep school buildings and classrooms as sanitized as possible.

The school district has taken the following measures to provide a clean environment for students and staff on school campuses:

  • Hiring additional custodial staff at each campus
  • Requiring all custodial staff to wear masks and gloves
  • Following CDC guidelines on cleaning using EPA-approved disinfecting products
  • Increasing the level of daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces
  • Performing nightly deep cleaning of campuses with electrostatic sprayers and other EPA-approved disinfecting products

School bus safety measures

While Rockwall ISD encourages parents to provide transportation for their student(s) for in-person learning this school year, additional safety measures have been put in place for students needing to ride the bus to school.

School buses will be equipped with a hand sanitizing station attached to the entryway of the bus. To minimize the spread of germs, students must sanitize their hands when entering and exiting the bus. Face masks will also be required for students while on board the bus. The bus driver will provide a mask for any student who doesn’t have one.

In an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines, Rockwall ISD has implemented a one student per seat policy while on board the bus. However, siblings will be allowed to sit together in a seat.

Buses will be disinfected with sanitizing wipes and/or electrostatic spray on high-touch surfaces with EPA-approved disinfectant. This will be done between routes and at the end of the afternoon routes before the next day.

Per TEA safety guidelines, school bus drivers are encouraged to open windows when possible to allow outside air to circulate throughout the bus.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for school campuses

Here’s a list of some of the PPE that Rockwall ISD acquired for schools across the district:

  • Disposable masks (sizes for students and adults)
  • Reusable masks (sizes for students and adults)
  • Adult size face shields
  • Gloves
  • Touchless thermometers
  • Hand Sanitizer

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photos courtesy of Rockwall ISD.

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