School is back in session at Shelley High School
SHELLEY, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Shelley School District began its school year on Tuesday.
Shelley High School Principal Burke Davis said they have made a lot of changes but it’s going well so far. He says his school is glad to be back in person.
“Is it perfect? By all means, no,” Davis said. “But we’re really aiming to reach out and reach all of our kiddos and educate them the best we can under the current circumstances.”
He says it took a lot of planning and preparation with local health districts.
“For us it’s a little unique because we were switching from the five day a week school to a four day a week,” Davis said. “We’re switching from an A B block schedule, which our students went every other day, four classes a day, to a seven period day so we have a lot of changes right now.”
The four day school weeks will continue as long as Shelley High stays in the green level. As the risk level moves to moderate risk, they will move to an every other day schedule depending on last names. Some students will attend in person on Mondays and Wednesdays, others Tuesdays and Thursdays.
At high risk, only 25% of students will attend in person at a time once per week and the rest of their learning will take place online.
He says the abrupt transition last year really prepared students and teachers for online learning this year. Last year, it was very difficult to be so distant and have to figure things out being so brand new to the situation.
“It’s amazing what I think educators were able to do in a short period of time with what they were able to ask, it’s truly amazing,” Davis said. “So hats off to all educators, all districts, for what they did last year...Educators are resilient, they’re gritty, and we’re in education because we care about kids.”
Critical risk level will mean 100 percent of students will learn online 100 percent of the time.
“I also think that we’re better suited to do that this year,” Davis said. “Teachers have had some training, a little bit more help. All of our students here are one-to-one. So they have a device already and a little bit better situation to do that in the event that it does happen.”
In the event that students will learn online full time, Principal Davis says teachers are preparing their students in person so they can easily adjust to learning from home.
“Our main platform is Google Classrooms and our teachers are teaching through Google Classroom even in the classroom and our students are becoming more familiar and comfortable with it,” Davis said.
Students are being asked to physically distance and remain in small “pods.” Teachers have seating arrangements that keep kids distanced from one another. They keep their interactions with students limited. Arrows signal directions for students to travel on opposite ends of the hallways to keep the distance between them as much as possible.
“We have kinda created what I call ‘old downtown Idaho Falls, and a lot of one way streets in our hallways,” Davis said.
Principal Davis says they have an open campus and are encouraging students to eat outside to keep the cafeteria from becoming too congested. Shelley High School is also allowing food in the hallways to help kids spread out from the cafeteria. They are asking students to clean up after themselves to assist janitors in their already full cleaning schedule due to pandemic safety protocols. Food comes packaged from the cafeteria to ensure it stays clean and sanitary.
Staff encourages masks, sanitation, and increased hand washing. There are sanitation stations in the cafeteria and throughout the high school. Shelley High also has one touchless water fountain for kids to fill their water bottles.
“Just a lot of small things that I think add up,” Davis said. “Right now, kids just seem to be excited to be back in school and doing well with what we’ve asked of them.”
Most of the staff are wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. Principal Davis says treating the students as members of a team is helping their school remain vigilant, cooperative, and enthusiastic about the new school year.
“We’re really just trying to be a team effort and say here’s what we need, here’s our plan,” Davis said. “The better we follow that plan, the more likely we are to be able to stay in school and to have some of these things.”
Principal Davis says some parents have chosen to keep their students home this school year to engage in online learning full-time. He says Shelley High School fully supports each family’s individual wishes.
“I think it’s important to understand, there’s a lot of people with different opinions and thoughts,” Davis said. “When we’re talking to a parent and they decided to keep their kid home, our response should be, ‘that’s awesome. That must have been a difficult decision.’ And then we turn around and the parent says my kids are going to school, it’s the same response. ‘That must have been a very difficult decision. That’s awesome.’ That’s what we’re here for is to support all of our kids and families with their current situations. Everybody’s got a story and their different circumstances.”
Some staff members have shown a concern about contracting COVID-19 and potentially spreading it to their loved ones who may be at high risk.
“We’ve just had conversations with staff and worked with them and their individual needs and cases and done our best to support them,” Davis said. “We have a lot of protocols and things in place but a lot of it is so case-by-case because there are so many unique and different circumstances. Teachers are feeling a little bit of fear of the unknown and we’ve worked with them and collaborated with them. Hopefully we’ve met a lot of their needs and worked through those concerns so that we’re providing a safe environment for everybody that comes through.”
Principal Davis says he hasn’t talked with any staff who are considering early retirement. He says his staff is overall relatively young. He understands the concern and says his approach has been teacher focused for each various case. He says liability is something to be aware of, especially with the state. “We’re doing everything we can to ensure safety and educating kids and then working with individual needs,” Davis said.
“Our approach with liability is it’s out there and it’s a reality, you need to know about those things,” Davis said. “But we’re also worried about ‘what does it take for us to help our families and our kids get through this?’ That’s gonna allow us to be more successful. And when those things come up, if there’s a concern and we can do things, we’ll implement those safety measures so that people feel better...It’s something that’s out there but it’s not the primary focus.”
Davis says they’ve been in close contact with the Idaho High School Athletics Association and each district is left to develop their own plans to keep attendance in line with the category or risk phases each district is in. Each district also works within their own conference. At Shelley High, varsity is separated from upperclassmen and drills are shortened with kids spread further apart. Coaches are encouraged to wear masks on the sidelines and while coaching hands-on with the kids. Student athletes are encouraged to use hand sanitizer and refrain from sharing water bottles.
Principal Davis also offers advice for other school districts based on what he’s seen work well for Shelley High School.
“Go at it as a team mentality, to include all stakeholders, your parents, your students, your staff, and talk about it and include everybody,” Davis said. “And so then when they feel part of that, you know, our kids are doing great at it. Our teachers are helping us.”