Cuba Schools Superintendent Jon Earnhart had nothing but praise for his entire staff and all they accomplished leading up to last week’s closure of the R-2 campus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Still hoping to return to classes on April 6, he shared his plan to get the buildings and buses sanitized with the school board during its March 17 meeting.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our staff in getting stuff ready and the care and concern they showed for our kids. Our kids are incredibly blessed,” Earnhart told the board. “There could have been a lot of negativity, but (the staff was) awesome. They have been extremely patient—asking a lot of questions I don’t have answers to.”
The district’s principals echoes much of what Earnhart said.
“We sent assignments home with kids for 10 days on their laptops, on Google Drives, and through Canvas (a learning program used by the district), and the staff has less than 48 hours to get it down,” Cuba High School Principal Tim Webster said. “They did it very well.”
Webster added that students will be able to email teachers throughout the time classes are not in session, except for the spring break week. Some of teachers will be accepting completed assignments during the closure, while others will wait until kids return.
“No students will be left behind or penalized because they don’t have access to Wi-Fi,” Webster stressed to the board.
Cuba Middle School Principal Marie Shoemaker said her staff sent home hard copies of work for students to complete during the shutdown—eight days’ worth of assignments—so her staff had a lot of copies to make in a very short time.
“They did a fantastic job,” Shoemaker said. “I’m very proud of the staff and how they brought all this together.”
She said CMS students’ work will be due when they return to class.
At the elementary, Principal Joe Cross said he used the same procedure as the middle school, making hard copies of assignment to send home with students. Those will also be due when classes resume.
“We focused primarily on review skills,” Cross told the board. “Our goal is not to slide backwards while we’re out of class. I’m very proud of everyone in the building for the work they did.”
Cross also noted that attendance on March 17, the final day of classes, was down significantly at the elementary, but noted that may have been due to the fact that many students have been suffering from the flu recently.
Earnhart told the board the decision to close was made because he felt it was important to reduce exposure and risk of exposure to the virus, noting that most schools in the state had closed. He said the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) had recommended that all school staff begin working at home and the district is doing as much of that as possible while continuing to clean and disinfect surfaces on campus.
Earnhart outlined much of his plan to clean buildings and buses before students return. Currently, no one is allowed on campus, except administrators, maintenance and custodians.
“This allows us to be disinfecting every building, without interruption or distraction and allows the areas that have been disinfected to remain that way,” Earnhart said. “We are shutting campus down completely beginning Wednesday, March 25 through Sunday March 29, after everything has been disinfected.”
Staff members will return on Monday, March 30 for a workday. Earnhart will then have each building come in for an additional day on a rotation—the high school on March 31, middle school on April 1, and elementary school on April 2.
“This will allow our custodial staff to disinfect each building again, the day after the groups are here,” he said. A second workday is tentatively set for PD/curriculum work.
“In addition, our bus drivers are split into two groups and will be returning Monday and Tuesday (March 30-31) to disinfect and clean buses again,” Earnhart said.
The district is scheduled to have state bus inspections on March 26, so the schedule will allow drivers to clean buses again after the inspections.
“That is the gist of what our current plans are,” Earnhart said. “Obviously this situation is very fluid, so we will continue to follow recommendations and make the necessary decisions that are in the best interest for our students and staff.”
In preparation for closing last week, the school also had to formulate a plan to feed students while they are out of classes (see related story). And before school was closed, they sent food home with children who participate in the Backpack Program and will also be working to keep that program working as long as school is out.
School cooks will be working on a rotational basis the week of March 30 to April 3 each morning to help prep food bags and deliver them to students at the middle school and other locations throughout the city. That food program is being coordinated with the Cuba Food Pantry and Covenant Praise Church.
Earnhart told the board that DESE has pledged to continue all funding so the district can continue paying teachers and other staff members during the shutdown. Most of them will be working at home, while office staff will work on a rotating basis at home and in the offices.
At the time of the meeting, DESE had rescheduled the state’s annual student assessment testing, requiring it be completed by May 22, which is after Cuba schools are scheduled to be out of session. Since then, however, DESE has canceled those tests for this school year.
Earnhart added that he is working on a plan to provide some tutoring during the closure, but that it would have to be done off campus. Also, the Special Education staff is looking to provide their students with support.
“Right now, we are only planning for the current closure,” Earnhart said. “If the closure is extended, we’ll have to come up with new plan to provide instruction. We have to be real fluid and real flexible moving forward.”