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Full Circle School to open August 17

Full Circle Schools in Rice held its parent orientation August 6.

Full Circle will be open for five day a week in-person instruction for all students beginning Monday, August 17. The hybrid in-person and Zoom virtual orientation meeting reflected the new normal for kids and families.

According to school director Angela Whittaker, Full Circle is expected to have full enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year and is already experiencing waiting lists for some age groups. The school’s ideal capacity is about 46 students in its current building. With the new social distancing suggestions from the CDC the school will limit the enrollment to ensure social distancing within the building.

“We have been planning for on-site instruction this fall and the possibility of increased enrollment due to the current health crisis. We had some increased interest in June. However, once area schools announced their intention to go to entirely virtual instruction in July, we have seen a dramatic increase in the requests for information and enrollment,” Whittaker said.

Beginning in May, Full Circle’s goal in planning for a return to the classroom was to keep class sizes small, utilize available indoor classroom space and expand the outdoor classroom space.

“We have a large pavilion with electricity that allows for an amazing outdoor learning and creating space. We will be increasing our use of this space. Additionally, we will have students working on a design for another learning space on school grounds. This one will have their ideas and design behind it. It is important for students to have input and help create or build these types of things, that way they take ownership and gain valuable skills through applied learning,” Judy Chambliss, an instructor at the school, said.

“We have established procedures and guidelines to meet recommended safety recommendations, and still provide students with a nurturing and academically enriching experience. Plans were made to move forward more quickly with the expansion and improvement of outdoor classroom spaces due to the current reality.” Whittaker went on to say, “There are rules about face coverings for staff and students, social distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning procedures, and adjustments to schedules to allow for safer movement throughout the building during the school day.”

The school has procedures in place for transitioning to temporary distance learning if there should be a confirmed case of COVID-19 or exposure to someone with the virus.

“We have virtual learning infrastructure in place and will be working with students during the first days of school to help them become as independent as possible in using their technology,” Whitaker said. “Should we need to close, we will do so on a 10- to 14-day basis and return as soon as is safely possible. Nothing is perfect and there is risk in every place we go during this pandemic. We are doing everything we can to mitigate the risk and still serve our students. It looks like we will need a fourth teacher in the next few months. That may be the most difficult challenge, finding the right person to work in our instructional model. We are just not like other schools and it takes a certain educational philosophy to do things the Full Circle way.’

“This is a very challenging time for schools and the country. We are facing situations and decisions as educators that are completely new territory, and it is constantly changing as the virus surges in areas and wanes in others. We have always been a unique school that was designed from the outset to keep class sizes small and provide outside learning opportunities on a daily basis. This design put us in a good position to open as soon as the state said we were allowed. Our staff has been extremely flexible and creative in the needed changes and is working extremely hard to get classrooms ready. With the added help and support of our parents, the school board, and Jamestown Presbyterian Church we are in a good position for the opening of school as safely as possible,” Whittaker said.