Input from Clarinda School District stakeholders is being gathered as officials finalize plans for the start of classes on Aug. 24.
Responses to a survey distributed to teachers, staff and parents will be incorporated into decisions regarding procedures to be implemented for the 2020-2021 term.
An overview of selected plans currently under consideration was presented by district administrators during a town hall event July 13 at the Clarinda Middle School commons.
The district is formulating “Return to Learn” policy mandated by the state, and the information from the survey will help officials “be productive and strategic,” said Clarinda Superintendent Chris Bergman, noting that state authorities have been pushing for students to “go back to school.”
In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, adjustments will need to be made in the manner in which educational services are delivered to students.
The Clarinda district is focused on what can be done “to mitigate all the risks,” Bergman said.
Among practices contemplated are those similar to recommendations that have been made to the general population since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.
In the school setting, additional steps will need to be taken, including no sharing of materials by students while in class. Students will use their own supplies, but the school will provide such items to students in need.
Sanitizers and tissues will also be provided by the district, said Cynthia Opperman, principal at Garfield Elementary School.
Visual aids will be introduced as reminders for appropriate practices to be followed. As an example, “one way” markings will be in hallways. If deemed necessary, shields may be placed on desks or table.
Temperature checks will be routinely performed. But a decision of whether to require masks or other face coverings in classes has not yet been made, Bergman said.
To limit exposure of school personnel to health risks, it will be necessary to prevent visitors, including parents, from entering school buildings during the day. The buildings themselves will be thoroughly cleaned.
Transportation schedules will be arranged with separate drop-off and pickup sites at school buildings to reduce the number of people at those locations at the same time. Bus routes will also be consolidated.
To meet the needs of specific students, individualized instructional plans can be utilized, including online learning when appropriate. Bergman said Clarinda may be able to share this approach with other districts.
If positive COVID cases occur within a school setting, district officials will work with the Page County Public Health Department to respond to the situation. Other health care entities will be involved as well, and action could include contact tracing.
A decision on whether to close a particular school would be “building specific,” Bergman said.
Registration for 2020-2021 classes will be conducted online, said Denise Green, high school principal. Families without Internet access may contact the school for assistance.
In lieu of actual open houses at the schools prior to the beginning of classes, “virtual tours” will be presented so students and parents can see the interior of the different buildings.
With uncertainty surrounding how the 2020-2021 school year will unfold, Bergman said that there may be a belief that district officials are withholding vital information regarding what practices might have to be implemented.
She said that administrators, teachers and staff members “love your children. We don’t take these decisions lightly. I ask you to assume positive intent, whether with your neighbor, your husband or wife, or with us.”
The best information, she said, “comes from close to the source,” and she encouraged people who have questions about the district’s plans to contact her.
In addition, Bergman said that a strong response to the survey was crucial. “We need everyone involved,” she said.
Also at the town hall, information was presented about a realignment that will move the seventh and eighth grades to the high school building.
The change will make additional space available in the Garfield building.
At the high school, seventh and eighth grade students will use hallways not utilized by students in the freshman through senior classes, and there will be separate locker rooms for the younger and older students.
An “offset” bell schedule will also be employed so that students will be in the hallways at staggered times, thus reducing crowding.
“We are confident that there is plenty of room” to relocate the two grades to the high school building, Bergman said.