Rae C. Stedman Elementary School (Photo/KFSK)

School in Petersburg starts Tuesday, Aug. 31st. As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports, many health protocols for COVID-19 will be relaxed from last year but masking will remain.

The Petersburg School District surveyed families in June about the start of school and the feedback was mixed. Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says they are trying to balance recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the State’s Department of Health and Social Services and the Local Advisory Committee.

“Trying to be measured about what we’re doing,” Kludt-Painter said. “Trying to be aware of recommendations but also cognizant of families’ concerns and suggestions and things that they are worried about.”

She was speaking on KFSK’s Campus Connection show earlier this month.

Many protocols that were in place last year have been removed. There will not be pods, or smaller class sizes through middle school. Students don’t have to be seated six feet apart and teachers won’t be taking kids temperatures every day. The schools’ cafeterias will be open for normal use. And parents and visitors will once again be allowed into the buildings as long as they follow protocols.

Masking, however, will be required by all staff and students, at least for the first two weeks of school at which time the school board will revisit the issue. Masks are also required on buses, per federal law.

Travel protocols are also changing. Staff and students can return to school immediately if they mask for a week and produce a negative PCR test result after 7 days. The district is strongly recommending that travelers also get an initial test upon arrival back to town. Students who don’t want to test can opt to quarantine for 10 days instead. But that option will not be allowed for staff.

There will be a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and students when it comes to being a close contact. Those who are vaccinated do not need to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact. They only need to watch themselves for symptoms and a COVID test is recommended three to five days later. Unvaccinated staff and students must quarantine for a week, be symptom free, and produce a negative PCR test six days or later.

For sports, high school activities require biweekly rapid tests for all students. Middle school activities require testing if students are participating in activities off-island.

The daily schedule at the schools will be a little different this year.

The elementary school will run 8:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.  Fridays will be 8:00 a.m. to noon for all elementary students.

The morning bell will come earlier, which is a point that was stressed by Principal Heather Conn at the last school board meeting.

“The bell rings at 8:00 a.m. Anybody who enters the building after the bell ringing will be considered tardy,” said Conn. “So, that is a change from the past. It’s been 8:15, so this is a mighty change. It changed last year, we had a lot of tardies.”

The new part-time preschool will run Tuesday through Friday from 8:00 to noon starting September 7th.

Kindergarten students start a day later than the rest of the school and they will have a slow start. Kindergarten will be part-time from September 1-17 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.  Starting September 20th kindergarten will go from 8:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, they’ll go 8 to noon like the rest of the school.

The middle and high schools are back to seven period days running from 8:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. On Friday, it’s 8:15 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Unlike last year, there will not be an option for virtual attendance. If kids miss school for a quarantine or travel, they’ll have to make up the work they’ve missed the old fashioned way, pre-pandemic.

Principal Rick Dormer addressed this at the last school board meeting.

“We had kids last year who never came into the building and did everything virtual and that’s fine, that’s something we did for kind of the extreme state we were in last year,” Dormer said. “We’re not offering that and that’s based on a lot of factors but mostly just doing the best we can for learning.”

He said they are following a national and state push to keep kids in school in-person even if that requires masking.

Here’s a flier explaining the start-of-school protocols.

The school district updated its website.