Schools share reopening plans

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Dubois County students will return to in-person instruction on Aug. 12, as of now.

In simultaneous special meetings this morning, each school board for Dubois County’s four school corporations — Greater Jasper, Northeast Dubois, Southeast Dubois and Southwest Dubois — approved plans to reopen the county’s public schools. A task force made up of representatives from each school corporation developed the main framework each corporation is following, and each corporation will determine how to implement the framework in its schools.

“There’s no right or wrong answer,” Greater Jasper board member Ken Schnaus said during Tuesday morning’s meeting. “We’ve got a very unique situation with the pandemic.”

The framework includes three operating options — green, yellow and red — that are determined by the spread of COVID-19 in schools and the community as a whole. In the green phase, in-person instruction takes place five days a week with social distancing measures in place and students and staff self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms. In the yellow phase, social distancing measures are ramped up, students and staff will be temperature screened when entering school buildings and hybrid instructional models will be implemented. In the red phase, school buildings close and instruction is provided through e-learning and distance learning.

“It’s not perfect, but it is a framework that allows us to maneuver within it,” Greater Jasper Superintendent Tracy Lorey said.

Extracurricular activities will be offered according to guidelines from the Indiana High School Athletic Association and state and local health departments. Summer sports and marching band activities began earlier this month.
Families who do not wish to send their children for in-person instruction can enroll in an online academy provided by each school district. Families will be asked to commit to the online academies for a full semester, and students enrolled in the academies will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics.

More information on the countywide re-entry framework and each school corporation’s individual plans can be found on the corporations’ websites.


Social Distancing

Social distancing measures will vary by school and by which operating option is in use. In general, students will be separated into cohorts and will remain in those cohorts as much as possible. Students will be assigned seats in classrooms, cafeterias and on buses. Larger spaces will be utilized as much as possible for activities such as meals. In the yellow operating option, spaced lines will be marked for cafeteria usage and class changes at the middle and high schools will be staggered to alleviate crowds in the hallways. In the yellow phase, students will also remain with the same staff members as much as possible — all day for elementary students and as much as feasible for middle and high school students.

Each school will also set up a COVID-19 isolation room where anyone experiencing symptoms will be examined by their school’s nurse and wait to be picked up, if need be.


Masks

Schools are strongly recommending that students and staff wear facial coverings, however they are not required. The schools will provide a mask to each student and staff member, but usage will be a personal choice. Exceptions include cafeteria staff — who will be required to wear facial coverings while serving food — and students or staff who are in the COVID-19 isolation room.


Busing

School buses will be in operation in both the green and yellow operating options. Students will have assigned seats and be seated with their siblings and students at the same bus stop. Bus drivers will frequently clean and disinfect high-use areas, and the buses will be aired out when not in use.


Contact Tracing

In the event of a positive COVID-19 case in a school, administrators will work with the Dubois County Health Department to carry out contact tracing procedures. Contact tracing is the process of identifying and notifying close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. According to the reopening framework, close contact is defined as anyone who has been within 6 feet of the infected individual for 15 minutes or more. Those who experience symptoms of COVID-19, those who test positive and those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive will be asked to quarantine according to guidelines from state and local health departments.

Depending on the number of positive cases in a school, buildings may need to be closed for a few days for deep cleaning and sanitization. In that event, instruction would be offered via e-learning and distance learning.
“We know this pandemic is around for a while,” Lorey said. “It’s not a matter of if folks get a positive, but when.”


North Spencer

The North Spencer School Board met Friday to approve the corporation’s re-entry plan, which is similar to the plan for Dubois County schools. The plan lists Aug. 12 as the first day of school and utilizes in-person instruction with social distancing, disinfection and safety measures in place. Students and staff will be required to wear facial coverings during passing periods and on buses, as well as when working in small groups. Bus drivers will be required to wear facial coverings when loading and unloading students, but can remove the coverings to drive.

In the event of a positive COVID-19 case, administrators will work with the Spencer County Health Department to perform contact tracing and encourage quarantine of affected individuals. Symptomatic students and staff or those who are asymptomatic but have a positive test will not be permitted to return to school until they have no symptoms and their quarantine period has passed. E-learning or distance learning will be provided for students in quarantine.

Should a school building or the corporation as a whole need to close, instruction will be provided via e-learning and distance learning.

Holy Trinity Catholic School could not be reached by press time.




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