A big change came earlier this week for junior high and high school students in Pauls Valley as a way to space them out and slow down the numbers forcing so many of them to stay home because of COVID-19 related contact tracing.
During a recent school board meeting Superintendent Mike Martin said the problem is not positive tests for the virus but instead the much bigger number of students with no symptoms who are quarantining because of possible exposure.
That's why it was decided to move students at the two schools to an alternative schedule of in-person and virtual classes over the next few weeks.
“We have to do something different,” Martin said about his decision to move the junior high and high school to what's called an A-B schedule, which got started on Monday, Nov. 16.
“It's not the number of students testing positive but all the ones that are required to quarantine. We still do not have a lot of kids sick, but when you have one kid sick you have to quarantine 15.
“Teachers are exhausted and administrators are busy with this and doing the contact tracing.”
With the A-B schedule seventh through 12th grades are moving to two days of classes each week at their schools with remote learning for the other three.
Depending on the first letters of students' last names, some will be in the classroom Monday and Thursday, while for the others it's Tuesday and Friday.
Wednesday each week is set aside as a day for all classes to be virtual, while the actual classrooms get a “deep” cleaning.
“We can't socially distance them at the junior high,” Martin said. “The classrooms really are just too small to do that the right way.
“At the high school they can follow regular schedules on the days they're there. You have more space there, so if a kid tests positive you don't have quarantine the rest, just the one who tests positive.”
Martin said it was earlier this month when the number of junior high students out of class for contact tracing jumped to over 100 as the school was nearly closed. That didn't happen as there enough teachers to cover all classes.
A similar situation came recently at Lee Elementary, but the school did close and go to virtual classes for a couple of weeks because there weren't enough teachers.
“We're having a hard time getting subs because don't want to come into the school. You can't really blame them.”
The superintendent describes it as a “tremendous amount of work up front” to make this kind of schedule change at the two schools.
“We'll do it as long as we feel we need to.”
Another measure, this one just for seventh- and eighth-graders, is to move electives, like band or sports, to times before or after the regular school day.
“Kids need to catch up with these core classes. I'm concerned about our kids missing out in these classes. I want to stay in school, I think it's the best thing for kids to be at school.”
With the class changes school breakfasts and lunches will continue to be provided for students throughout the week.
No changes in class schedules are planned for PV's three elementary schools.