The Warren County School District took another step towards getting kids back in the classroom this fall when the Board of Directors unanimously approved the District’s Health and Safety Plan for Phased Reopening Monday night.
The plan sets the parameters for what steps students, staff and parents will have to take to have students return to the classroom Sept. 1. It also gives the District the flexibility to adapt quickly as state and federal mandates change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going to see those plans (Health and Safety for return to school and athletics) over and over as things change,” WCSD Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “The plans give me authority to exercise changes as they come, and then approve those changes at the next (board) meeting.”
The plan calls for a “total reopen for all students and staff (but some students/families opt for distance learning out of safety/health concern).”
Parents may choose to enroll their children in the WCSD Virtual Academy, or other approved cyber schools, if they don’t feel comfortable sending their students back to a traditional classroom setting.
Some of the steps the plan outlines for students and staff to maintain social distancing include:
- Restricting interactions between groups of students as much as possible
- Holding larger classes in gyms, auditoriums or outdoors (when possible)
- Altering classroom configurations to maximize physical distance between students
- Restricting use of cafeterias so students can maintain 6 feet of distance
- Providing alternative meal settings used in conjunction with cafeterias so students can maintain 6 feet of distance
- Buildings will be open for students, staff and essential visitors only. Non-essential visitors will not be permitted to enter
Staff and students will also be required to wear face coverings at all times. Face coverings, according to the definition included in the plan, are “a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face. A ‘face covering’ can be made of a variety of synthetic or natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen. For purposes of this order, a face covering includes a plastic face shield that covers the nose and mouth. ‘Face coverings’ may be factory-made, sewn by hand, or be improvised from household items, including but not limited to, scarfs, bandanas, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.”
There are exceptions to the face covering provisions. Those exceptions are:
- Students are eating/drinking and 6 feet away from others
- Students are seated at a desk or assigned work area and 6 feet away from others
- Students are engaged in activity 6 feet away from others or are outside and able to maintain 6 feet of social distance
- Students are actively engaged in workouts or competition during physical education class or physical activity during recess
- Students qualify for an exemption from the face covering requirement. In which case, they will be socially distanced 6 feet in the classroom to the extent feasible or while eating
Staff exemptions are only while eating/drinking or at an assigned work area and while 6 feet away from others, and those staff who qualify for an exemption.
The plan also says any staff or student who “violate the face covering requirement may be subject to discipline.”
While the board didn’t discuss the issue, masking will likely be a contentious point for parents, staff and students.
“Masking is large issue for fall, and I intend to contact the officials in charge of this,” Jewel Rozanski said during public comment. “I’m not really interested in having our youngest children…reprimanded at any point. It disgusts me they’ll be sitting all day with petri dishes on their faces. As a teacher, that’s not a battle I’m willing to pick. I don’t plan on disciplining students when they can’t wear them correctly (and) I don’t want to be reprimanded professionally. We can’t control what’s mandated, I’m just asking for flexibility on enforcement for age level and per class.”
Face coverings will also be required when students are using district transportation. Additionally, there will be no more than two students per seat.
“We’re meeting regularly with emergency management providers,” Stewart said. “We want to get these plans looked at by professionals.”
Stewart said the District will be putting out another round of parent surveys so parents can let the District know whether their intent is to have their children in school or distance learning.
She also plans to have more focus groups, based on attendance area, to try to give parents a better feel for what school will look like in the fall.
“As you can see, the state is sending this stuff to us in pieces,” Stewart said. “It’s going to make it difficult for parents to dig in. We’ve been out meeting with parents and coaches and that’s going to be ongoing. We want parents to have an understanding of what the classroom setting is going to look like so they can make the best decision.”
The full plan can be viewed here.