Lindbergh will start school year with K-3 students in person, all virtual for 4-12

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Members of the Lindbergh High School Class of 2020 graduate in masks at an outdoor drive-in graduation at the PowerPlex in Hazelwood in June.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

Lindbergh Schools will start school this fall with only students third grade and younger in the buildings, while all students from fourth grade through high school will be attending virtually due to the St. Louis region’s rising trend of coronavirus cases.

Lindbergh is the last South County district to announce a virtual plan for the fall, and the only one that will start with any in-person attendance. The Mehlville Board of Education voted Wednesday night to start school virtually for all students. Lindbergh’s neighboring districts Webster Grove and Kirkwood will also have an all-virtual start.

And although the first day of school was set to be Monday, Aug. 24, the Board of Education will consider next week whether to move the start date to Thursday, Aug. 27. That would allow families to be introduced to new digital platforms and receive K-9 1:1 devices, iPads or Chromebook laptops. Teachers would get extra professional learning days to prepare for virtual instruction.

In a new change, every student K-12 will be provided with a district-owned device for use on virtual learning days. More information will be sent out soon.

Another change in the plans is that all children and staff will be required to wear masks at school, unlike the first version of the plan which said that only those ages 9 and above had to wear masks. Masks will also be required on the bus.

Previously, the district released the “Lindbergh Green Light Plan” July 20, which called for two days of in-person instruction a week and three days of virtual attendance for all students. That would allow 50 percent of students to attend at one time, which allows for social distancing.

But cases have continued to rise since July 20, especially among young people, including ages 10-19.

The district thought that it could reopen with in-person attendance for all students because since July, it has so far successfully reopened Lindbergh Early Childhood Education at 50-percent capacity. ECE has “successfully implemented procedures for social distancing, face coverings, reduced class sizes and contact tracing,” the district said. Opening with younger students is a “natural progression” from the experience with ECE, but not with older students.

“We now know through scientific research that COVID-19 behaves differently in young children, and that children younger than 10 years old have significantly lower susceptibility to COVID-19 infection,” Superintendent Tony Lake wrote in an email to parents.

But despite the success with ECE, Lake said that the district made the decision that older children will stay home “based on local data, consultation with medical professionals and collaboration with the St. Louis County Department of Health.”

Studies have shown that children under age 9 are less likely to get and spread the virus, the district said. But for those 10 and older, the virus spreads the same as it does in adults.

The district said that the decision was made based on the data and “what is best for student and staff health and wellbeing.”

All children do better with in-person school, but that is especially true of the youngest learners, the district said. Those students “rely on the routines and structures of a classroom environment to build the essential foundations of learning.” Younger children are also easier to keep with the same students all day, compared to older students who need teachers from different classrooms who specialize in different subjects.

In a change from how Lindbergh buses usually operate, bus transportation will be limited to elementary students who live more than half a mile from school.

For students attending in person, grab-and-go meals will be available for purchase. Families may view menus and pay online. For students with all-virtual learning, the district and its food service provider Southwest Foodservice Excellence will provide curbside to-go meals for families, who must sign up for the service. Meal cost will be based on eligibility for free and reduced lunch. Families have to sign up each week for lunches.

Lindbergh has created three phases that the district will move through this school year: Phase 1 is all students attending in person five days a week. Phase 2 is the hybrid or blended plan with two days of physical attendance and three days virtual, and Phase 3 is all-virtual for every student. K-3 will start in Phase 2 and older students will start in Phase 3. The Green Light Plan is a “living document,” the district said, that can change based on what happens with the virus in St. Louis County.

Lindbergh’s new full-time virtual school, called Accelerated Remote Courses or ARC, is also available to any student. The district will also offer tutorials and tools on blended learning for families.

Protocols from Washington University Pediatric and Adolescent Ambulatory Research Consortium have been put in place for school nurses.

Three of the five South County districts, Affton, Hancock and Bayless, have said they will go all-virtual for the first quarter of school. But Lake said he is not committing to a time frame for the starting phases, noting that any changes will be based on the data. The district is working with health professionals to come up with metrics to allow a return for all students.

“Our plan is flexible, and our trusted medical professionals and the St. Louis County Department of Health stand ready to advise us and serve as valuable resources as we return to school. We will continue to review county and school data, and adjust our phases as often as needed.

“Though these decisions have not been easy, they have always been about finding the right fit for kids. Throughout this process, our community has made clear that most important factors for returning to school are the district’s ability to reduce class sizes and promote social distancing as best as we can. We remain committed to upholding those priorities.

“Welcome back to school. We look forward to seeing you soon, in person and online.”

The K-3 in-person attendance plan will have students with last names A through K attending Tuesday and Thursday, and students with last names L through Z in person Wednesday and Friday. The other three days will consist of virtual instruction or independent work.

Families can switch from in-person to ARC through Sept. 18. Contact your principal to make a change.

The district is also meeting with the Special School District, or SSD, to collaborate on how to provide services for children with Individual Education Plans or IEPs during Phases 2 and 3.

After-school child care Flyers Club will be open for grades K-3, based on availability.

The part-time ECE program will also transition to virtual for this school year only.