COVID Causes Changes for Schools COVID Causes Changes for Schools

Carlisle uses smartphone app to stay open on a regular schedule.

AXTON – While some schools went virtual this fall, it’s been business as usual for Carlisle. The private institution in Henry County opened its doors slightly before Labor Day weekend.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted schools across the commonwealth in March. However, come time for the fall semester, each district gained control over their own educational plan.

Some schools systems in the Southside and southwestern portions of the state adopted an online learning model. Examples include Henry County Public Schools, Martinsville City Public Schools, Danville Public Schools and Pittsylvania County Public Schools. Since then, some of those schools transitioned from an all-virtual format to an in-class or hybrid model.

Carlisle’s plan was a bit different. Located on a 25-acre campus with both indoor and outdoor space for instruction, class size played a role.

“Carlisle School opened on Aug. 24 this year and due to our small size, we were able to safely accommodate in-class learning five days a week,” said Jennifer Doss, the school’s resource development and marketing director. “We do offer virtual learning for students who wish to have that option. In the opening week, we had 28 students who chose the virtual learning option with the remaining students attending in person.”

By the second week of October, the Axton-based college preparatory school implemented a new approach into their COVID-19 precautionary measures. The pre-K through 12th grade school adopted the SmartInfoApp, an application downloadable on smartphone devices.

An informative application

The app serves as a one-stop shop for many families.

According to the SchoolInfoApp website, the technology lets parents or other caregivers screen students and other campus visitors before they arrive at school. App users submit answers to a brief questionnaire daily. The technology asks families to report whether or not students have a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. It also asks that parents list if their children have a fever, chills, muscle pain, a sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell.

The app reports the family’s answers back to the school in real-time. That allows each school or district a clear, concise and easily accessible view of active or potential cases within their system.

Before students walk into Carlisle’s Early Childhood Program, Lower School, Middle School or Upper School, personnel check the app associated with each child. Via each section’s action plan, the app displays a green light if students may enter the school building. Otherwise, students must stay at or return home until further notice.

The app documents and securely stores all questionnaire responses. They are available for administrative review, oversight and attendance record comparison.

“[It] allows us to pre-screen students and staff before they arrive to campus,” Doss said. “Parents are adopting the app well and using it daily. By the end of this week, 100% of [our school’s] parents will be using the app.”

School during the pandemic

As with other classrooms across the commonwealth, Carlisle School quickly put safety precautions in place for the students and staff. The extra measures follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Social distancing, face masks [or] shields, plexiglas dividers, hand washing breaks and lots of hand sanitizer are important. We also limit student travel in the hallways, use outdoor classroom spaces whenever possible, deliver lunches to the classrooms and have dedicated staff who sanitize all high-touch areas on campus multiple times a day,” Doss said. “The children have adapted very well to the new routine and are happy.”

There was one slight moment of concern this week, created by accident. A technical glitch on the school’s social media pages earlier this week reposted a news report from March. The release stated that Virginia schools would close for two weeks, starting on Monday. There’s no plan for a shutdown, Doss said. As of Thursday, the school had no reported COVID-19 cases, unlike the districts around them. Grandparents Day is still set for Oct. 23 and students won’t get out next until Thanksgiving break.

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. She can be reached at amie@couriernewsroom.com