MOKANE — A re-entry plan released Monday by the South Callaway R-2 School District clarifies multiple aspects of the district's plan for handling potential COVID-19 cases.
This year will look different, Superintendent Kevin Hillman warned in his introduction to the plan.
"Never in the history of schools have our students, staff and family encountered a period with this much time since they last attended school," he wrote. "Never before have there been this much worry, frustration and planning for an unknown world and unknown school year."
The plan, available to view online at bit.ly/3jRuT8a, features a long list of precautions to be taken throughout the coming school year in the face of the ongoing pandemic. It also explains plans A, B, C and D — the same plans the district has been discussing for weeks, though Plan B and Plan C have been significantly tweaked. According to Hillman, it was crafted from guidance by federal and state authorities and has been endorsed by the Callaway County Health Department.
The district initially planned to release this information closer to registration, which will take place Aug. 10-11 (bit.ly/2BBNrb0). However, during a mid-July meeting, school board members urged administration to hammer out clear policies and make them available to families as soon as possible.
"We tried to get it out a little earlier at the request of the board," Hillman said Tuesday.
In his introduction, Hillman notes the district's plan could change as new guidance and new challenges emerge.
"Our promise is to try our very best to always keep your students' safety and education at the top of our priority," he said.
Plans A, B and C feature escalating safety measures while most students remain in class.
These plans do not apply to families who opt for distance learning through virtual education program Launch. Students who are approved for virtual education have a seven-calendar-day window to transfer back to in-person instruction if desired; past that window, they'll stay enrolled in Launch for the rest of the semester. The plan document includes forms to request enrollment in the virtual schooling program.
The district will introduce increased sanitation procedures. Custodial team members will be trained in proper procedures and cleaning supplies. During the school day, custodians will regularly disinfect surfaces and high-traffic areas. Desks and tables will be disinfected between classes, and the buses will be cleaned before and after each route. Non-essential furniture and carpet are being removed from classrooms to make cleaning easier and provide additional room to space desks apart.
All classrooms will be equipped with hand sanitizer or handwashing stations, which staff and students will be expected to use frequently.
Students will have "very strict" assigned seating in classrooms, in common areas and on school transportation. On buses, students will be seated with household members. This will make contact tracing easier, the district explained. Parents who are able to do so are encouraged to drop off and pick up their students themselves.
Students will not be allowed to congregate in large groups between classes or before and after school.
Upon arrival at school, students and staff will have their temperature taken by a thermal camera. If anyone registers a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees, they'll be moved to a designated isolation area until they can go home. They must leave campus as soon as possible.
Staff or students who are sent home due to a temperature may return to school as soon as the next day if they are temperature-free and can provide either a negative COVID-19 test or a COVID-19 release from their doctor. If they're unable or unwilling to provide one of those, they must stay symptom-free for 72 hours before they'll be allowed to return to campus.
If someone develops COVID-19-like symptoms during the school day, they'll be moved to isolation and must leave campus as soon as possible. Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, congestion and more.
Any student or staff member who tests positive must be quarantined for 14 days and have medical clearance from a physician or the CCHD before returning to school.
If the district is notified a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 and attended school the day of that positive test, contact tracing and investigation will start immediately. Students and staff who were in close contact with the case will be notified and won't be allowed to return to school until cleared by the CCHD.
Depending on the CCHD's recommendation, the district may shut down part or all of a school building for cleaning.
If an individual tests positive on a day they're not attending school, the areas of campus the quarantined person normally visits will be observed closely.
Plans for extra-curricular activities are still being formulated based on guidance from MSHSAA and the CCHD, the district said.
The district will be limiting visits by parents and others; if a visitor is approved, they must wear a mask and submit to a temperature check.
Students will not be required to wear masks under Play A, though they are encouraged to do so. Students may purchase masks from the school for a low price. Masks must meet dress code requirements — they can't be printed with anything vulgar, obscenities, or advertisements for alcohol or tobacco products.
"Right now, unless something else comes up, our intent is to start back with Plan A and go from there," Hillman said.
The revamped Plan B calls for the same safety measures described above under Plan A, plus mandatory mask-wearing for students and staff during "periods of movement." Those include the bus, times between classes and passing periods. Any student or staff member with a documented medical condition impacting their ability to wear a mask for a long period of time should notify the district of this condition. They will be "evaluated by school administration and the district's nursing staff," the plan states.
"Most schools are still leaving (mask-wearing) to choice," Hillman said. "If we continue to see spikes (in cases), this could see change before students even get here. People have very strong opinions."
Plan C requires the same safety measures as A and B, but introduces a hybrid instructional format. Students and staff will alternate between in-person and virtual attendance, meaning fewer people are in the buildings on any given day. Students will be assigned a group if Plan C is initiated.
In earlier drafts, Plan B and C called for 50 percent and 25 percent of students and staff to be on campus daily, respectively. Hillman said the district realized that version of Plan C would leave so few students on campus, it might as well be distance learning.
Lastly, there's Plan D, in which the campus is closed and all students switch to distance learning. Families may choose between paper packets of coursework and meeting with teachers over Zoom. According to Hillman, over the summer, teachers have joined professional development focused on improving their ability to conduct online classes.
The district's publicly released plan does not detail what might trigger the district to move from, say, Plan A to Plan B, or Plan B to Plan D. Hillman said that decision would fall to him, with help from the CCHD — there's no "magic number" of cases.
"Procedurally, it's going to be a very challenging year," Hillman said.
He encouraged district patrons to call the central office with any questions, comments or concerns at 573-676-5225.