Plans In Flux For What School Will Be Like Once Students Return To Buildings

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

The Wellington Education Committee met on Tuesday, Aug. 18 for a meeting held via Zoom and discussed the unusual circumstances surrounding the delayed start to the school year.

At the beginning of the meeting, John Webber was chosen to remain as chair of the committee, joined once again by Shelly Albright as vice chair.

Among the more interesting parts of the meeting was a discussion led by Committee Member Donna Baxter, who works as student activities director at Palm Beach Central High School. She gave the committee members an idea of what school will be like once classes resume.

Baxter noted that the school year is set to begin via distance learning only on Monday, Aug. 31. At some point, currently set for seven days after Palm Beach County moves to Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions, the physical school buildings will re-open.

At that point, parents will be given the choice of whether or not they want their students to return or to continue with distance learning.

Baxter said that surveys show that somewhere between 15 and 50 percent of students’ parents will send them back to the brick-and-mortar schools. She pointed out that the schools may not know the exact number until the students show up that first day. “It is like trying to plan dinner and not knowing who is coming to the meal,” she said.

Baxter continued that each classroom will have a live teacher, but that only between one-third and one-half the class can be physically present in the classroom due to social distancing guidelines.

If more than that return in person, the remainder of the students in each class will need to be located somewhere else in the school, viewing on a laptop or similar device. Those locations might be the auditorium, the cafeteria or some other as-yet-undetermined place. “It is currently up to the principal to work out a plan,” she said.

Speaking through a cell phone call that was held up to a laptop monitor, Baxter said that the questions far outweigh the answers at the current time, and details have to be worked out. “I just wanted to alert you that when the students go back to school, it is not the school they remember,” Baxter said.

In other business, Community Services Director Paulette Edwards provided a staff report on the balances of what each school has left of any of the Keely Spinelli grant money that may be used at the school’s discretion, and that includes online use. She said that the Wellington Village Council will determine the amounts of money in the grants for next year.

Edwards also reported that the Feeding South Florida site at the Mall at Wellington Green has been handling 900 family vouchers per week. Each voucher is for a family of four for food for a week. She thanked the Wellington Rotary Club and the Crown Pearls of Wellington for their help with the Tuesday morning distributions, adding that the program began in May and is expected to continue through at least the year’s end.

Edwards added that the Civics 101 program has gone virtual, that Friday night games will continue on Zoom and that hundreds of backpacks were given out at a recent village-organized drive-through event.