Champaign County’s five public school districts and their related vocational and service components have released a joint plan for reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year.
The statement is titled “Champaign County Schools Common Reopening Agreements.”
The plan is designed to comply with existing guidance and recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The entities listed in the reopening agreements are Graham, Mechanicsburg, Ohio Hi-Point, Triad, Urbana, West Liberty-Salem and Madison Champaign Educational Service Center. Each is customizing a return-to-school plan based on the agreements but customized to their own district. As of Monday afternoon, Triad and West Liberty-Salem had issued customized plans to their district stakeholders through the districts’ websites.
The plan relies heavily on the state of Ohio’s new color-coded Public Health Advisory/Emergency designations by county. If schools were to open under the current Level 1 Yellow designation Champaign County currently holds, the plan calls for opening with 100 percent face-to-face learning with a list of detailed precautions. Level 2 Orange would continue face-to-face learning with added safety protocols. Level 3 Red would require a hybrid approach to learning including reduced capacity face-to-face learning and remote learning. Level 4 Purple would require remote learning by all, which is how Ohio schools finished the previous school year when the pandemic was in its early months.
Any change in these levels once schools open would trigger schooling changes.
According to a document released by school officials, general principles will guide each school district as they move forward with reopening schools at full capacity throughout Champaign County, including:
1. Each school district will implement recommended safety protocols to the highest degree possible;
2. Each school district will work closely with the Champaign Health District to promote safety in each school building;
3. Each school district will be transparent with all stakeholders that some level of risk will always be present when children and school district employees occupy school district facilities;
4. School districts recognize the need for consistency in areas of operations while recognizing that individual differences in classroom sizes, school facilities and building operations may lead to some inconsistencies;
5. School districts are planning to maintain their previously-approved school calendars with some possible front-loading of employee professional development. Districts that intend to revise their school calendars will work directly with their boards of education.
6. County school districts will work hand-in-hand with the local health district, utilizing the county risk level guidelines, to determine the appropriate delivery model for learning (i.e. face-to-face, hybrid learning, remote learning).
7. This plan will be re-evaluated once the pandemic designation has been lifted or as guidance is updated.
Each school district will customize the agreement to fit its facilities and population.
In the classrooms
According to the general agreement by all 7 entities, facial coverings will be recommended. Districts will inform parents that safety protocols are in place, but any student who attends school will incur some level of risk. Districts will decrease the likelihood of infection with hygiene, cleaning and safety procedures, but being in a public place has a certain level of risk that cannot be eliminated. Districts will include a Masking Acknowledgement form in all back-to-school paperwork.
Classroom occupancy will be determined based on each individual circumstance with the maximum amount of safety considerations possible. Each classroom will incorporate extra space between students as practical.
Face coverings are strongly recommended for all students in grades 3-12. These coverings will be provided by the parents. Parents are required to have a completed Masking Acknowledgement form on file.
School employees are required to wear facial coverings. If they are working in their room in isolation or in an office they are permitted to remove the covering.
School districts will offer remote learning for parents who do not wish to send their child to school. Parents may choose two options:
1. Send their child to school (assume some level of risk), or
2. Agree to remote learning from home which will include specific timeline, grading and work completion requirements. Remote learning options will be reevaluated at the semester. Parents and students will agree to comply with remote learning attendance guidelines or a return to face-to-face instruction will be required.
On the bus
Champaign County districts will allow two students per seat and in some instances three students if the children are younger and therefore smaller.
Districts will attempt to seat siblings together. Seating charts are recommended to assist with contact tracing if that is needed.
Windows will be cracked for additional ventilation when practical.
Students will be seated from back to front to reduce the amount of contact with other students.
Face coverings are required for students, and the district may refuse to transport a student who opts not to wear a face covering. Parents can opt to self-transport or car-pool.
In the event state policies require school districts to use alternative schedules, districts may adopt minimum requirements for transportation to reduce the number of students who are eligible for school district transportation.
All bus drivers and bus aides are required to wear facial coverings. If they are working in isolation or in or on the bus alone, they are permitted to remove the covering.
In the cafeteria
All districts will offer food service. Logistics will be determined by each district in compliance with the health department based on:
– Limited capacity/occupancy of the school cafeteria
– Staggering of lunch times/Control of traffic patterns
– No self-service
– Individual condiments
School districts will utilize playgrounds and will make every effort to maintain consistency with safety procedures and sanitizing.
-Before and after using “high-touch” equipment, students would be required to use hand sanitizer.
-Districts may utilize “structured” recess activities such as nature walks that limit students’ physical contact with others.
-Students must sanitize their hands before and after recess.
Communications when a student/staff member has been diagnosed with a COVID-19 positive case
Communication will be developed by the health district, not the school district. A common template will be developed to include the following:
– Specify to parents which classroom(s) the confirmed case was in (example: Mr. Smith).
– More detailed statements will be provided to building staff.
– The school district will cooperate with the health district’s work in contact tracing.
– A 14-day quarantine will be required of any student who tests positive with COVID-19 and; 14-day quarantine will be required of any staff member who is determined to have had “significant and prolonged exposure” as determined and documented by the health district.
– The Champaign Health District will provide the county school districts with documentation that explains/defines what is considered “significant and prolonged exposure” to COVID-19 that will result in quarantine.
Student health issues that are NOT diagnosed as COVID-19
The duration of home stay for a child sent home with a fever is the child should become fever-free (without medication) for 72 hours (three full days) and improvement of all other symptoms for 72 hours. (Or a documented negative COVID-19 test or diagnosis of something other than COVID). Temperatures will be taken upon return. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they and all other students in their families will be quarantined for 14 days. The health district will perform all contact tracing.
To return to school, the child must be transported to school by the parent and must be checked by the school nurse before resuming school transportation.
Reach Brenda Burns at email@example.com.