Royal Palm Beach High School Principal Dr. Jesús Armas told the Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board on Monday, Sept. 14 that the return to school has been complex in the face of the pandemic, and will continue to be as some students return to classroom learning on Monday, Sept. 21.
Emphasis has been placed on social and emotional support during the opening days of school, combined with instruction using modified teaching systems, Armas said.
“We need to provide our students with some sort of social and emotional support,” he said, referring to studies of students who had called child welfare agencies during the pandemic. “We know that kids were in situations that they needed us and they couldn’t come to school, because we know that school provides safety for our kids at least eight to 10 hours a day, and we can supply all the support that they need.”
School staff referred to the school district’s model of social and emotional learning to address what was focused on for the first several days of classes, Armas said.
“We decided that we were going to suspend curriculum for the first six days that the kids came back and deal with social and emotional learning,” he said.
Teacher professional development in a new instructional environment and technological development for distance learning, as well as a different classroom, was also stressed.
“They’re having to teach like they’re never had to before, and they’re having to learn on the job,” Armas said. “We have fewer sessions because we want to have sessions, but we don’t want tons of them.”
Teachers were required to learn all elements of the new teaching system. However, the instructional methods give teachers a wide range of options.
“We allow faculty to drive a lot of general instruction,” Armas said.
He said that 1,654 of the school’s 2,400 students participated in distribution days where they picked up new textbooks or dropped off old supplies from last year. Staff also distributed 1,436 devices to students and have 690 Chromebooks remaining in stock with 450 laptops in transit for a total of 2,576 devices.
The school has also developed a back-to-school plan including all facets of a school day as it would be under social distancing conditions.
“We call it the ‘click-to-brick’ plan,” Armas said. “We took all aspects of the school operations and had to work with each one. We wanted to break down the different things that needed to be done, first what kind of adjusted procedures would we have, based on all the COVID-19 rules and regulations and CDC guidelines.”
He said breaking down all the procedures required a tremendous effort by staff and resulted in a large spreadsheet of protocols to be followed. “Now we have to make it happen,” Armas said. “We know we can, but certainly there are a lot of things involved.”
As an example, he said traffic patterns have been created in the hallways so there is only one-way movement, and social distancing spots have been put on the floors. Students leaving buses will be directed to alternate entrances from bus to bus to increase social distancing.
Armas added that the school district has spent a lot of money to put up plexiglass in high-traffic areas where students or visitors come in contact with staff, and hand sanitizer and extra masks have been distributed to teachers.
For more information about Royal Palm Beach High School, visit www.rpbhs.org.