RSD Announces Plans to Reopen Secondary Schools


Media by Ben Hughes

For the first few months of quarantine, MHS was relatively empty with the only traffic being staff picking up or dropping materials. Over the past three months, the reopening phases and county-approved sports practices have allowed MHS to once again be busy with activity, now following social distancing guidelines. Principal Dr. Steve Hankins awaits the reentry of students. “Until kids get in the MHS building [and in classrooms], we don’t feel settled,” he said.

As of today, Principal Dr. Steve Hankins said MHS reopening plans are finalized but have not been announced in detail due to the reviewing process and the need to possibly tweak plans over the next week. By Friday, Oct. 23, Dr. Hankins will have the information about start and end times for school, the duration of classes and the general daily schedule of school in-person to send out to parents and students. 

The process of reopening MHS is in correlation to the decision of RSD to reopen secondary schools, which was made public last Thursday, Oct. 15, when RSD published a timeline for the full-time return of all secondary students to the classroom on their website.

For middle school students, parents received an email Friday, Oct. 16  asking them to indicate their preference for 2nd quarter schooling, in person or virtual, and submit it by Wednesday, Oct. 21. Then, of the students who chose the in-person option, sixth graders will return Wednesday, Nov. 4, while seventh and eighth graders will return Thursday, Nov. 5. 

For high school students, the plan follows the same structure with later days. On Friday, Oct. 23, parents will receive the same email and be asked to respond by Wednesday, Oct. 28. For the students who chose the in-person option, Wednesday, Nov. 11, will be the day of freshman orientation and Thursday, Nov. 12, will mark the return of all grades to their designated school. 

In the post, RSD directed the community to their health and wellness information on the “Rockwood Safe Together” page, which is where information about safety processes and social distancing are provided.

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“I look forward to welcoming our secondary students back to the classroom,” Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles wrote. “We are excited and looking forward to a safe and successful return to school while continuing to support our virtual learners at home.”

In response to health indicators, Glenn Hancock, Director of Research Evaluation and Assessment for RSD, worked with the Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to guide the decision of the district in regards to reopening schools.

Hancock said plans changed over the past few months about how the district was going to reopen, from having the mindset of a reduced capacity in-person option to going to all virtual learning, and now implementing re-entry at a full scale. 

RSD had to ensure that district sites were ready for students to come back. A part of that included the development of a checklist for all schools to follow to make sure the district is thinking of all safety measures and working toward the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission, Hancock said. 

“From traffic flow patterns to providing resources for families that may need assistance, we have had to consider everything for re-entry,” Hancock said. 

It’s a fear of the unknown and a sense of anticipation. We just want to see our students again. It doesn’t feel right without them.

— Dr. Steve Hankins

Hancock reiterated that RSD is monitoring positive cases and quarantine rates among the students who have gone back to school as well as contacting districts that have returned in-person and learning from what they have been doing. 

“The main thing driving reentry is that we want to support all of our students in the best way possible considering the situation,” Hancock said. 

Alongside Hancock, Dr. Hankins has been consistently involved in the planning process of reopening MHS to the students and community. 

He said planning for re-entry started around the time that elementary schoolers were being sent back in late September through early October; however, the basics of safety measures and protection were established back in August. 

“We are just trying to make sure we have our schedule ready to go so we can send it out to parents and students, so they can make an informed choice on if they want to come back or not,” Dr. Hankins said. 

The MHS administration is awaiting the number of students that will opt to come back to school, come Thursday, Nov. 12. From that, Dr. Hankins said it will be decided if more lunch shifts need to be added, seating needs to be readjusted and if there is a need for additional monitoring of passing periods.

In regards to the general feeling about school reopening, Dr. Hankins said there is an overall tone of nervousness among the staff. 

“It’s a fear of the unknown and a sense of anticipation,” he said. “We just want to see our students again. It doesn’t feel right without them.”