Schools Require Help To Run Safely – Transylvania County, NC
Last updated 8/10/2020 at 3:10pm
If local schools are going to be safe this coming semester, it is going to take a collaborative effort of the school system, local health department and parents.
“As with all learning in our schools, our parents are critical partners in our re-entry this fall,” said Transylvania County Schools Superintendent Jeff McDaris last week.
That partnership begins every day before parents put their children on the school bus or drive them to school.
“We ask that parents check their child’s temperature at home before leaving for the bus stop and school,” said McDaris. “We will also be checking temperatures for everyone upon arrival at school. There are several attestation questions that will be asked to determine potential exposure. These questions are short and will become routine, but is an expected acknowledgment before entering school.”
Under the local Plan B, all students are required to wear masks on buses as well as in school. The school system will provide five masks to each student and will provide more, if necessary, at no charge.
Once students arrive on campus, they will have their temperatures taken.
“The threshold as established by N.C. DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) is a temperature of 100.4. We are working with and in close contact with our local health department on protocols for students or staff exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (including temperature). We will have a location at each school for individuals meeting these criteria as well as tracing protocols for any potential exposures,” he said.
The temperature check precaution is not limited to just students.
“Anyone entering our buildings will be required to have their temperature checked upon arrival,” he said.
McDaris said there are no plans to have all school personnel tested for COVID-19 prior to schools’ reopening on Aug. 17, but he encouraged anyone who may been exposed to the coronavirus to contact their own health care provider or health department.
If a teacher or student tests positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to the coronavirus, the school system will work with the local health department as to what steps should be taken.
“Our local health department is our partner in addressing potential positive tests. This includes contact tracing, exposure level determination, and quarantine length,” he said.
Depending on the number of positive tests or exposures, the school system would also collaborate with the health department regarding any closures.
“Any decision to temporarily close a classroom or a school would be made in close coordination and consu-ltation with our local health department represent-atives,” said McDaris.
One of the primary precautions is the requirement that all teachers, students, staff and visitors to the schools wear masks.
“Masks are to be worn in the school setting at all times, other than when students are eating, drinking, strenuously exercising. This applies to all grade levels,” he said.
McDaris said school administrators are encouraging teachers to be creative in their instruction and utilize outdoor learning as much as possible.
For example, if students are outside and socially distanced while doing math relay games, masks could be taken off due to strenuous exercise.
Even during those times, students need to remain 6 feet apart.
“Recess for students is allowed under Plan B,” said McDaris. “Principals have worked to divide their playground areas into zones.”
Classes will have a specific zone to play in each day. The number of people within that zone is limited to 10 or less.
Teachers also will monitor students in the hallways to make sure they are 6 feet from each other.
McDaris said the school system is going to have PE, band and music classes, although the distance between students will be farther.
“Additional distancing will be required in classes involving an increased potential for more droplets in the air due to heavier breathing, singing or use of musical instruments,” he said. “This can include classes being held outside when weather permits. All of these classes have components of instruction and course of study mastery that include traditional classroom teaching and learning that do not require heavier breathing.”
In order to minimize the mingling of elementary students, students will select a lunch in the morning. At lunchtime, cafeteria staff, along with the help of teacher assistants, will box up student lunches and deliver them on a cart to the classrooms.
With some students attending school in-person and some learning entirely at home, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recently re-leased additional attendance designations to be used by school systems to record attendance.
“Attendance can be tracked both in-person and via remote learning opportunities,” said McDaris. “Attendance is important and those policies will be maintained. Schools and principals have always worked with parents on excused absences due to illness.”
McDaris said this year is going to be challenging one, but school administrators, teachers and staff will meet the challenge.
“High-quality educators will always find a way to make learning engaging, meaningful, and purposeful. This year will be no exception,” he said. “We believe that students thrive socially, emotionally and academically when they are surrounded by their peers and teachers, even when wearing masks and being socially distanced.
“We work diligently to offer the very best educational opportunity for students.”
He noted that while the pandemic presents many unique challenges, it also has forced school staff to reflect on the best ways to help and instruct children.
“The best ideas in our country often emerge out of a crisis,” he said.
He said parents should understand the school system has three top priorities.
“Certainly, one of those is to educate, but that is third in order of priority,” said McDaris. “First is safety and to make things as safe as possible. Second is to let our students know we love and care for them. Then we can educate.”