TONTOGANY – Otsego Local Schools has finalized its back-to-school plan.
The plan is for students to attend five days a week and wear masks.
The school board met Wednesday but made no changes to the plan, which had been approved in July.
“It’s not going to please everyone,” said Superintendent Adam Koch at the board’s meeting on July 23. “Obviously, there’s always concern … we’re not going to be at 100% approval rating on this, but the feedback has been overall positive.”
He invited the Wood County health commissioner to that meeting, where the board officially approved the restart plan. Ben Batey appeared virtually at the meeting, held in the high school gymnasium.
Batey said the health department is not taking the stance that any plan is better than another.
“Every single school district in Wood County is different, depending on the size of the school, how many students they have and the spatial constraints and age of the buildings,” he said.
Batey said that he does like the flexibility in Otsego’s plan.
“This is the year to have as much flexibility as possible,” he said, in anticipation of what will happen with coronavirus.
The plan in place is for all students to be in class five days a week with masks at all times except when eating lunch. Social distancing will occur as much as possible, even in the lunchroom. Kids will sit two per seat on buses and buses will be cleaned after each route. Cleaning will be done between classes and on touch points. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the buildings, in each classroom and on the buses.
Deep cleaning will be done every night with electrostatic sprayers.
Plan 2 may go into effect if Wood County is on a level 3.
That plan is a hybrid system where students are placed in two groups, one that attends Tuesdays and Thursdays and one that attends Wednesdays and Fridays. Mondays will be 100% online.
If the county is in level 4, the district may go to Plan 3, which is full-time online learning.
Batey said changing levels likely will depend on how many cases are in the school. He added that it would be difficult to flip back and forth between plans if the county’s level continues to change.
“There’s always going to be some risks with either one of the plans,” Koch said.
Batey said he gets asked a lot about quarantine and isolation.
For isolation, that means a student has tested positive for the virus or has been deemed a probable case. That student will need to be isolated at home for 10 days plus 24 hours after they are symptom-free.
Contact tracing needs to be done immediately in school to determine who the ill child has been within 6 feet of for at greater than 15 minutes, Batey said.
That is why assigned seating on the bus, the classroom and the cafeteria are so important.
Those people in contact will need to be quarantined and stay home for up to 14 days.
“At periods of time throughout the school year, your student may be quarantined and need to stay home for a period of time,” Batey said.
Parents need to understand “this is the year that at any point if your student has symptoms, we need them to stay home,” he added.
The goal is to be proactive to prevent any spread of the virus, he said, and the line of defense includes masks and 6-feet distancing.
Every student will be given the opportunity for a face shield and every student will be given one Otsego Knights face mask.
Masks will be mandated on buses, with masks made available for anyone without one.
Frequent mask breaks will be given to students.
“Masks are a huge help in slowing down the spread of the virus,” Batey said. “Distance is a huge help. Plexiglass barriers are a huge help.”
Keeping students in set groups also will help, he said.
Koch said the plan is to have not as many class shifts and plexiglass barriers with assigned seats in place.
He wanted to know if a small group of students met for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon, does that fall into the 15-minute limit for contact.
Batey said it is generally combined time, so that should not be done.
Koch also asked if the data on kids 10 years old and younger supports the supposition they don’t contract the virus.
In all the studies that have come out to date, it shows kids 10 and under don’t seem to actively spread the virus, Batey said. They tend to be asymptomatic and don’t show symptoms.
That is why some schools were making kids 10 and under exempt from wearing masks, Batey said.
Gov. Mike DeWine has since mandated every child returning to the classroom this fall must wear a mask.
“As we stand here, this is our goal,” Koch said. “But if we need to make a change based on data and what we’re seeing, we’re going to do that.”
The first day of classes has remained unchanged at Aug. 24.
The idea to have families sign an Otsego Pledge has been shuttered.
The intent was for families to sign a form agreeing to self-monitor their children at home and keep them home if they have a fever of over 100 degrees or show any symptoms.
The pledge will be emailed out and parents will be asked to follow, Koch said.
Other parts of the plan include:
• If parents do not feel comfortable sending their child back to school, online lessons will be provided for PreK-12 grades. A student must commit to online lessons for a complete semester. A survey will be sent to determine the number of students who will not return to the classroom.
• Each student will only have access to one bus stop, so the morning and afternoon stop must be the same. Seats will be assigned so if a student gets sick, contact tracing will be easier.
• Transportation will only be provided to students identified as special education preschool as required by law. No transportation will be provided to all other preschool students.
• Thermometers may be made available at no cost to families who don’t have them at home.