When schools reopen later this summer both students and adults will see many differences, according to the plan presented to the School Board by superintendent Wendy Benton and assistant superintendent Dr. Brigette Matson. The plan, known as the Reopening Health and Safety Plan, was developed by a task force of 76 people and according to Benton, can be modified as time and circumstances require.
It was developed along the three goals of providing student safety, student educational attainment and the care taking role schools provide. There are multiple reasons, Benton said, for reopening in-person, in-school classes including the facts that 58% of the district’s students come from homes that are economically disadvantaged, 21% of district students are in special education, the schools provide for vision and hearing exams, that the schools cover food insufficiencies, make sure that children get the medications they require, and monitor possible situations of child abuse. She also said that in the six months the schools were one in 2019-2020 there were 66 reports of child abuse but none after schools closed in March.
Benton. reported on the results of a parental survey done earlier in which 83% of parents/guardians said they would be able to provide temperature screening at home and 11% said they might be able to provide screening. 57% were comfortable with returning to in-school classes and many said they would be able to provide transportation to school.
During the spring and summer all schools have received a deep cleaning, and where possible carpeting has been removed and replaced with laminate flooring, which is both more sanitary and easier to clean. All surfaces have been and continent be cleaned and sanitized and all custodians will be provided with sprayers. Furniture that is not essential for class work has been removed, creating more space in the rooms, and using areas in the buildings not currently used as well as outdoor space will be encouraged.
As schools reopen all school staff will be required to maintain the 6 foot social distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Meetings and parental conferences will be virtual instead of in-person wherever possible, traffic in hallways will be one-way and class change times will be staggered to prevent congregating in hallways. Gym classes will be held outdoors whenever possible and parents will be encouraged to dress children accordingly.
Parents will have a choice of four options when schools open, and the district will be flexible if parents choose to change their minds as the year progresses. Option One would be to attend in-school classes full time much as in the past with the restrictions given by the CDC. Option Two would be to engage in distance learning much as was done after the schools were closed in the spring. Option Three will be a blend of One and Two with the students taking some classes online while attending in-person class for other courses. Option Four will be to enroll in the DASD Virtual Academy with is classes in a digital format. All the options will offer the same material and follow the same guidelines and requirements as established by the District.
Addressing transportation needs the survey found that some 30%of students depend on school-provided transportation , but when schools reopen there will be many changes. The number of students on a bus will be reduced, students will be placed in an assigned seat and buses will be filled starting from the back of the bus, with no students permitted in the first row. Families will be encouraged to self-transport, and the parking fee required at the high school will be waived for the coming school year. Adults who do transport students to school will be asked to remain in their cars and allow children to enter the buildings.
When it comes to food services there will also be changes. Students will be served individually plated meals, and depending on the building may eat in the cafeteria while keeping a safe distance, in classrooms or outdoors when weather permits.
All students must wear face masks both on the buses and in buildings, as required by state law, and the same rules apply to all staff and visitors to the buildings. Benton added that there will be “breaks” during the day when people, both adults and students, wearing facemasks will be able to take them off. She also stressed that anyone who exhibits symptoms of the Coronavirus will be further screened and that anyone who is diagnosed with the virus will be excluded from the school and quarantined for fourteen days. In addition the schools will all follow the guidelines of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
As to sports events, Benton said that outdoor events such as football games are limited to 250 people, but that after subtracting players, coaches cheerleaders, medical staff and the band, about 180 spectators would be allowed. She added that new guidelines are coming out every day and she hoped that with the large seating capacity at Mansell Stadium more spectators than this would be allowed.
Benton added that the district is in need of substitutes in all areas from classroom teachers and aides to cafeteria workers to custodial staff. She said in closing that knowing the greater DuBois community, she is sure members of this community will step up and do whatever it takes to support the schools in their mission.
Submitted by Glenn Schuckers