By Stan Welch
Not surprisingly, the topic of reopening the schools dominated Tuesday night’s District One School Board meeting. As superintendent Robbie Binnicker explained the demands and the district’s plans for meeting those demands, the depth of detail involved became almost painfully clear.
Student, staff and teacher safety are, of course, paramount; and state mandates lay the foundation. But each district and even the individual schools have some responsibility for their own bailiwicks.
Binnicker explained that the district has developed three options, depending on the future course of the COVID pandemic locally. A safety and health task force, made up of medical experts from Prisma and AnMed, DHEC personnel ,district staff members and the Anderson County Emergency Management team participated in the development of the plans and protocols to be put in place.
The most desirable option would be full time in class instruction. That would, in effect, be the old normal. But there are also plans for part time in class instruction, known as the hybrid plan, as well as the option of full time virtual learning from the home.
The two full time plans, whether in class or at home, are largely self-explanatory.
The hybrid plan would have all students whose last name begins with the letters A through K attending two days a week, with those whose names begin with L through Z attending on two alternate days.
That plan would not apply to elementary students, since they do not normally move from classroom to classroom, significantly reducing their potential exposure. The current intentions of the district are to start with the full time in class model, but Binnicker repeatedly stressed how fluid the situation is. “We literally get new guidance from the state on an almost daily basis. The plans I am presenting tonight may be significantly altered by the time school starts.”
The layers of protection in place are almost intrusive, but are both necessary and mandated. Each student will have their temperature taken at the entrance to the school. Middle and high school students will be required to fill out an online questionnaire each day, concerning their general health. Those with a fever above one hundred degrees will be allowed a brief cooling down period. If their temperature remains t that level, they will be sent home.
Students and teachers will be required to wear masks at all time if they are within six feet of another person. Seating charts will be strictly adhered to, so that the contacts of anyone testing positive can be pinpointed. Each student will carry their own plexiglass barrier to place on their desks for each class.
Binnicker also stressed that the parents, especially those with younger children, will have to play a major role in making their child’s health known. “ We all know that if your child wakes up and says their tummy hurts, and you have to go to work you just tell them to get in the car and let’s go. That can’t happen anymore. If a child complains of feeling bad, they do not need to come to school.” All students will be required to wear their masks on the bus, regardless of age.
Between classes, teachers will use an approved disinfectant on each desk, and each student will wipe that desk down before placing the barrier on their desk. The definition of close contact is being within six feet of a person for fifteen consecutive minutes. Social distancing will be observed at all times, including in the cafeteria both before and during class hours. Bus schedules may be adjusted in order to allow for the reduced passenger capacity mandated by the state.
The various requirements and standards, as well as the plans for compliance are available on the school district’s website.
In one other item of business, Mayor Mack Durham appeared before the board and presented his case concerning the transfer of ownership for the property that includes the sports complex behind the town hall. He explained that, in order to apply for grant money to improve the property, the town needs to own the property. The site comprises less than ten acres. The board took the request under consideration.