JERRY CITY – The plan is to have Elmwood students attend school five days a week once classes start in August.
Whether masks will be mandatory was still undecided as of Wednesday, but staff have made it clear that this is something they want, board of education members were told at Monday’s meeting.
Elmwood Local Schools Superintendent Tony Borton addressed the district’s back-to-school plans at the meeting.
He met with staff Wednesday to decide on the issue of masks and he hopes to have a plan finalized next week.
While no decision was made, “the staff wants masks. For their safety and the safety of kids, they want masks,” Borton said Wednesday night. “The only way to stay in school is to wear masks.”
He plans to share the final plan with parents at the end of next week.
“Our goal is to get kids back into school. What’s going on with mental health and some of those concerns scare me, so I want to get the kids back to school,” Borton said.
Those who prefer to take classes online can enroll in the Royal Academy, which was started in fall 2018 for middle school and high school students at no cost.
“Any parent who does not feel safe will have an option for a totally online (program),” Borton said.
His list of recommendations for the cafeteria also have not yet been set.
Masks likely will be required on buses due to the proximity of students and the stale air. There will be two students per seat and sometime three.
“Socially distancing on a bus at my current load is something I cannot do,” Borton said.
He also is asking parents to drive their children to school or start a car pool.
“Every kid we can get off that bus … will free up that room,” Borton said.
Seats will be assigned to better track who came in contact with whom if a students does contract the virus.
Board member Melanie Davis asked if temperatures will be taken before a child gets on a bus.
At this point he is looking at making parents responsible for monitoring their child’s temperature, Borton said.
“This could change tomorrow,” said board member Debbie Reynolds.
Borton agreed he expects mandates to change once the district finalizes its plans.
Davis voiced concern about younger students wearing masks and Borton said there are some hearing-impaired students that need to read lips.
Borton said masks may or may not be required in the lower grades.
Face shields are being purchased.
“Make sure the solution is not worse than the symptom that you’re trying to fix,” said board member Brian King.
A parent survey with seven questions garnered 684 responses.
• 31.1% said they would need to know more details before deciding whether to send their child back to school; 47.5% said they were very comfortable with the idea of kids returning to the classroom; 8.3% were not comfortable and will most likely go to the online academy.
• 70% want kids in the building full time; 32.6% want a hybrid model; and 16% want students taught virtually.
• 30.3% think masks should be required for staff and students; 59.1% want to see daily temperature checks; and 28.7% prefer 6-feet social distancing in the classroom. Forty-two percent said they will send their child to school without any precautions in place.
• 63.5% were concerned with their child wearing a mask; 27.5% were concerned about transportation; and 26% were worried about childcare.
• 51.6% of respondents said their child will require busing.
When he looked at the results per grade level, about 90% of parents responded at every level, Borton said.
District resident Bryan Young said he disagreed with everything being planned.
He pointed out when there was a swine flu epidemic in 2009, schools did not close. They also remain open through the worst of flu season every year.
“Did we shut the schools? Did we wear masks? Did we close anything in 2009? No,” he said. “It’s called herd immunity.”
As for social distancing the children, Young pointed out they have been outdoors playing with each other all summer.
Cathy Young said while the number of cases continues to rise in Wood County, the number of deaths has not.
In other news:
• First Night, when parents and students come to the school to get locker assignments and visit their classrooms, has been canceled.
• Athletics will be left up to the state to decide. For contact sports, if testing is required 72 hours before a competition, Elmwood will not participate.
“There’s no way I can test 40 kids for covid and get results in 72 hours and be ready for a contest and do that every Friday,” Borton said, alluding to football. “There’s a point where it just can’t be done.”
• The time to drop students off at the school may change to allow parents to drop them off on the way to work.
• The next board meeting was changed to Aug. 6 at 6 p.m.