Positive COVID tests mean WHS, WCC students to stay home, learn remotely until Aug. 31
School starts Monday, Aug. 24, in the Waynesville R-VI School District. However, it’s already clear that, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not going to be a typical school year.
While most elementary and middle-school students are set to attend classes in person, Waynesville High School and Waynesville Career Center students will remain at home to start their year virtually on Tuesday, Aug. 25. The change was announced Wednesday after the district was notified that two WHS students recently tested positive for COVID-19.
As of now, WHS students are scheduled to return to the classroom Aug. 31. School-issued laptops and other materials will be distributed to WHS and WCC students Friday, Aug. 21, and on Monday. All high-school sports practices and events are cancelled until students return.
“Going virtual for students in grades 9 through 12 is an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” R-VI District Superintendent Dr. Brian Henry said, emphasizing that the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution” to meet and exceed current state health and safety recommendations.
For principals and teachers, changing schedules and transitioning to virtual formats in the wake of the pandemic is nothing new. R-VI officials spent much of the summer putting plans in place to deal with unexpected changes this year, and they’ve been telling students and parents to be ready, too.
The front page of the school’s official website at https://www.waynesville.k12.mo.us advises parents that plans can change — even at the last minute — due to factors outside the district’s control.
Since the last time students were in class, there have also been several changes made that students and parents should be aware of before starting the new year. Here are some of the mitigation measures, procedures and practices outlined by the district in its most recent press releases and Frequently Asked Questions articles posted online:
Students are required to wear face masks covering the nose and mouth before boarding a bus, arriving at school and conducting nearly any activity within school buildings any time social distancing cannot be maintained.
Parents are advised to send two masks to school with each student. The district will provide masks to students who do not have one.
In most cases, once students are in their classrooms they will be able to remove their masks. However, there may be some classes where social distancing isn’t possible, and in those cases an area will be designated for mask breaks.
Students and teachers will be able to keep their masks on at all times, if they so choose.
Waynesville has a goal of keeping bus occupancy below 60 percent this year. As a result, the district is asking all parents who can transport their students to and from school to do so.
When dropping off and picking up their students, parents are asked to:
— Pull forward to the maximum extent possible as directed by the child’s school to help traffic flow. Also, be cautious, since multiple children will be departing their vehicles at once.
— Parents who need to obtain items from their trunk should pull into a parking spot and walk their student to the front of the building. Parents will not be allowed to walk their student to their classroom.
— Pay attention to School Resource Officers, who will be present at buildings to keep traffic moving.
— Avoid arriving early in the afternoon and sitting in the parking lot, which can cause traffic to back up. Parents should arrive no more than 15 minutes prior to school letting out.
The district is also asking parents to screen their students for COVID-19 symptoms at home before boarding buses. Students who have symptoms should be kept home and parents should contact their school.
Bus seating will be assigned this year, with one student per seat, if feasible. Siblings will be assigned together in a seat.
All students will be required to wash or sanitize their hands before entering serving areas or eating meals in their classrooms.
Elementary school students will have their meals dropped off at their classrooms, and ID cards will be scanned by staff members. Breakfast is provided free to all students, except Thayer Elementary School. Elementary student breakfast prices are $2.25, and lunch prices are $2.10.
Waynesville Middle School and Waynesville High School students will choose pre-packaged meal components. Students will have their ID cards scanned as they enter the lunch door or be pre-scanned by staff members. At the middle school, breakfast is free for all students, and student lunches are $2.10. High-school student breakfasts are $1.45, and lunches are $2.30.
Information about the district’s Free and Reduced Meal program can be found online at https://www.waynesville.k12.mo.us/Domain/908.
As a result of the pandemic, some families would rather opt to continue online learning for their students as opposed to letting them return to the classroom. In response, the R-VI District has created the Tiger Virtual Academy, a virtual learning option that is free for students in grades K through 12 who are residents of the Waynesville R-VI School District.
Although registration for the program has officially closed, enrollments are now being considered on a space available basis. Families can learn more about the program and fill out a late-registration form at https://www.waynesville.k12.mo.us/Page/12375.
In addition to its main page, the R-VI School District posts updates to the following sites:
— The R-VI District’s Coronavirus Information Website is located at https://www.waynesville.k12.mo.us/Domain/1938.
— Some individual schools in the district have site-specific information on their web pages. To access school pages, visit the main page at https://www.waynesville.k12.mo.us and click the yellow “Select a School” field at the upper righthand corner.
— WHS and Waynesville Middle School sports information and updates are available at https://waynesvilletigerathletics.org.
— The new Tyler SIS Parent Portal provides parents with a way to view grades, schedules, attendance and other school information, as well as electronically sign forms that previously were sent home with students. Parents can log into the system at https://www.waynesville.k12.mo.us/Page/12459.
— Parents can also follow the district’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WayTigers/ for updates and more information.
(Editor’s note: Some information in this story was provided by the R-VI Office of Communications and Marketing.)