After a period of virtual learning throughout November, the Jamestown C-1 School has been back in person this month, with a few changes helping to keep students in their seats instead of learning from home.
Students at Jamestown ended up spending nearly all of the month of November away from in-seat instruction; the school's closure was first implemented Nov. 2 and eventually extended until Nov. 30.
Jamestown superintendent Gretchen Guitard said the district is trying to keep up with the academic gap that has emerged due to the time spent away from in-seat instruction. The district has provided Learning, Engagement and Preparation (LEAP) assessments through the state of Missouri since returning, and has increased tutoring and after-school homework help.
"We're really trying to focus on what we can do to make sure kids are where they need to be, pandemic or not," Guitard said.
Guitard said one of the first steps after handling November's coronavirus case and quarantine spike was implementing a mask ordinance.
"That has been a huge help, actually, because we did have a situation where if we would not have had the mask ordinance, we would have had an entire elementary class go into quarantine because of contact tracing," Guitard said. "Now, is wearing masks comfortable and fun and everyone loves it? No, but it's actually been much better received than I had anticipated."
Guitard said she thinks members of the school community have realized proper mask wearing is a way to help students stay in school, rather than being forced to quarantine if exposed to a positive COVID-19 case. She said students have done a good job with wearing masks properly during school hours as a result.
"Of course, when you're a kindergartener or first-grader — and even anyone can forget or not wear their mask properly unintentionally, so we do have reminders," Guitard said. "But as far as blatant 'I'm not going to wear a mask and you can't make me,' nothing, zero."
Besides this, Jamestown's more significant changes surrounding its handling of the pandemic date back to the beginning of the school year in August. Guitard said the school implemented social distancing on school buses, for example, adding another bus route as a result. Students continue to adhere to social distancing when arriving for school each morning, whether through elementary students' assigned seats in the school gymnasium or by high school students going straight to their first hour classrooms upon entering the building.
Guitard said the biggest challenge for the school has been the lunch process. The resulting lunch rotation — allowing one class in each of the cafeteria and school lobby, and others who eat in their classrooms — has helped with further adherance to social distancing. Larger lunch shifts also eat in the school gym.
Academically, Guitard said the school learned last spring that there were many ways to make the transition to virtual learning easier. Per a parent survey at the end of the last academic year, the use of too many different platforms for teachers to meet virtually with students — whether it be Zoom or Google Meets, for example — was confusing to keep up with. The resulting school-wide training helped teachers consolidate all virtual learning to Google Classroom tools.
The school has been helped along the road through the first semester of this school year by some assistance from Moniteau County's Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. CARES Act dollars helped Jamestown to purchase additional Chromebooks, laptops and internet hot spots, giving every student in the building access to electronic devices and the internet while virtual learning was taking place.
"That's been huge," Guitard said. "For any student who can't access the internet, we also had hot spots available for checkout. So the whole digital resource need was taken care of and supported by the Moniteau County Commission."
Guitard said CARES Act funding will also help with some building upgrades during Jamestown's Christmas break; a fence will be erected around the school playground, a livestream camera system will be installed for broadcasting school events, and air conditioning will be installed in the school gym. A majority of work, besides the playground fencing and some of the AC work, is set to be complete by the end of the school's two-week closure, Guitard said.
Jamestown also recently received COVID-19 antigen tests from the state of Missouri, which the school board gave approval to start administering last Thursday. While no tests have been administered to students yet, several staff members have taken it.
"That's just one more tier of support in helping us stay in person," Guitard said.