Rock Port High School

Rock Port High School

(Rock Port) -- Like schools in Iowa, northwest Missouri schools are gearing up for a new academic year, amidst continuing uncertainties related to COVID-19.

Classes in the Rock Port R-2 School District begin August 26th. Speaking on KMA's "Morning Line" program Friday morning, Rock Port Superintendent Ethan Sickles says his district filed an "alternative method of instruction" plan with state education officials. Similar to the Return to Learn plans required of Iowa schools, Sickles says Rock Port's plan carries contingencies for instruction away from school buildings.

"We had filled that one out back in May," said Sickles. "That was to allow us to provide virtual instruction in case we do have to be out in the building this year for 36 hours of school--and it would count towards our school attendance. Obviously, they realized that wasn't going to be enough, so just on Tuesday, they released that there's now an addition to that plan, I guess I will call it, that would allow for more blended learning, and more virtual learning, if necessary this year. Those hours would count towards the school day."

For now, however, Sickles says his district plans to have students in the classrooms when the new school year starts. With smaller enrollment numbers, he says social distancing is a bit easier for Rock Port.

"Our high school numbers are pretty decent, to where we can get around 16 students in a classroom, with the appropriate social distancing," he said. "So, we feel confident about that. There's obviously classes that every school has to deal with--band, P-E, some of those things that are bigger. It will look a little different than what's been done in the past, but we feel we have cafeterias, gymnasiums, those type of places that we can utilize as class spaces as well for the coming year."

Sickles says safety procedures are in place for in-person instruction.

"We are going to screen our kids and staff when they come into buildings in the morning," said Sickles. "Current science, and where they're telling us from the Department of Health here in Missouri, is that students do not seem to transmit it as much as adults do. So, the students will screen once they get to the first hour of their classroom. Adults, we will do once they get into the building."

Other precautions are being taken in building and buses to protect students and staff.

"We've ordered a ton of hand sanitizer," he said, "putting those near entrances, as well, with dispensers. On the bus, we are going to wear masks and spread out. Thankfully, our bus routes are not too large, so that we can do that easily. I think our adults will be wearing masks more often, or face shields, and our students will be wearing them as they're moving around the building."

While saying fall sports activities are taking place as scheduled, Sickles adds northwest Missouri officials are keeping a sharp eye on the success of Iowa's high school baseball and softball seasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. You can hear the full interview with Ethan Sickles on our "Morning Line" page at kmaland.com.