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Back to school looks different this year

Back to school looks different this year

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WAVERLY – Back-to-school lists include a few unusual items these days, such as face masks and hand sanitizer.

The Waverly and Raymond Central school districts have put together extensive plans to reopen their facilities after schools across the state were closed in mid-March by the COVID-19 pandemic and have not been open since.

Both districts worked with the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department to come up with a plan to hold classes and extracurricular activities as safely as possible while the coronavirus continues to spread in their communities. Raymond Central also conferred with the Three Rivers Public Health Department, which includes Saunders County in its territory. And Waverly consulted the Sarpy/Cass County Health Department as well.

The administrators will be monitoring the risk dials created by both health departments to determine how school will be conducted. The health departments involved will make decisions for the schools based on the number of local COVID-19 cases. According to the Lincoln/Lancaster Health Department, there were 20 cases of COVID-19 in Waverly and none in Eagle as of July 27.

The “blueprint” for Waverly Public School’s plan that was posted on the school website has three plans to deal with the level of risk.

For Plan A, school can be held with 100% of students and staff on campus five days a week if the risk dial is in the low, moderate or even in the high range. The regular school schedule will be followed.

There will be safety precautions in place for Plan A that include temperature checks, arrival and dismissal protocols that use social distancing.

Plan B would be put in place if the dial is at “high risk” and there is a high level of community local spread. Kindergarten through fifth grade students will remain on site. They will be placed in cohorts, or groups, that they will stay in all day.

Secondary students (grades 6 to 12) will be divided into two groups by last name and will be on campus two days a week and work at home independently two other days. On Wednesdays, all students and staff will work remotely and the buildings will be deep-cleaned.

Plan C will be implemented if the dial hits “severe.” All students would learn online while at home. The exact details of the remote learning schedule are still being developed and will be announced later, according to the website. Students will participate in live online learning and independent learning during this time. The school calendar will still be followed.

In all three plans, students and staff will be required to wear face masks at all times, including on the school bus. The only exceptions are lunch time, PE class, recess and designated break times. The school district will provide each student with two cloth face masks. Students are allowed to wear their own masks if they meet the district’s dress code policy.

Teachers will instruct students on how and when to wear their masks and what the expectations are. There will be break times built into the day depending on grade level for students to take off their masks.

A Chromebook laptop computer will be issued to all students in grades 3 to 12 to use in class every day. Sixth to 12th graders will take their laptops home each night. If Plan C is put in place, students in kindergarten through second grade can check out a device from the school.

The district has a procedure in place to use if a person becomes ill or shows symptoms of COVID-19 while at school. The person will be taken to a triage room for treatment. If the individual tests positive for COVID-19, all of the areas they used in the school building will be closed off for 24 hours and disinfected. The district health staff will assist the health departments as they conduct contact tracing, which includes informing and educating members of the public who may be affected.

The infected person can return to school if they have two negative tests, it has been 10 days from the initial clinical diagnosis symptom, they have been fever free without medication for 72 hours and their symptoms are improving.

Dr. Cory Worrell, superintendent of Waverly Public Schools, said the administration worked on the district’s COVID-19 plan through June and July with feedback from a task force.

The plan was announced to the public on July 23 via email and a teleconference with students, staff parents and patrons of the district. Since then, the public’s reaction has been positive.

“Overall feedback has been strong to support the program,” Worrell said.

There have been some concerns voiced by parents, however, according to the superintendent.

“Taking this feedback, we have been working on offering students an online option for their education this fall,” he said. “At this time we are working through the particulars of this program and the support we need to make it successful.”

Waverly adopted a staggered start for the first days of school. Sixth through ninth grades will report for their first day on Aug. 13. The next day, the rest of the in-person students will start. Students who will use the online option will begin on Aug. 17.

Cross-town busing will continue for Waverly students. All students riding the bus will wear face masks and sit in assigned seats.

Passing periods will be staggered for sixth through ninth graders as they travel to their classes and the hallways will move in one direction. Lockers will not be used.

Each building in the Waverly Public School system will have its own arrival and dismissal procedures, but in general they will be staggered and students will report directly to their first period class. Each building will also have its own safety protocols in place.

Raymond Central’s pandemic strategy is based on where the COVID-19 risk dial is at during the school year, according to the plan posted on the school’s website.

If the dial is in the green area, which is low risk, school will be held in person. Wearing face masks is up to the individual. Masks will be provided if necessary, but students and staff can bring their own.

When the risk dial is at yellow (moderate), school will also be in person, but online learning accommodations can be made. Staff will be required to wear masks when students are present. Students will be encouraged to wear masks, but they will be required to do so in certain circumstances. Bus riders will wear masks at all times.

The orange level on the dial indicates a high risk of COVID-19. At this level, students will still attend in person, but the district may adjust capacity levels. Online learning will be available for students not attending in person.

Face masks will be required for students, staff and visitors. If the dial reaches the high end of the orange level, the district would implement an A/B schedule where students would attend on an every other day rotation. They would be in person two days and work remotely three days each week.

In the event the risk dial reaches red, or severe, the district either enforces 50% attendance or closes buildings completely. When not on campus, students will use the remote learning platform developed last spring, which has been improved based on feedback from students, staff and parents.

At all levels of risk, hand washing and sanitizing will be required when students and staff enter and exit buildings, classrooms, cafeterias and transportation vehicles. Passing periods will be staggered and loitering in hallways or by lockers is not allowed.

Social distancing will be practiced in classrooms, cafeterias, hallways, buses and other facilities. Seats will be assigned in the cafeteria and students will eat with their cohort each day. Lunchtimes will be spread out and students will not be allowed to serve themselves at salad bars or buffet tables.

The district’s custodial staff will be disinfecting high touch areas in classrooms and hallways between periods and will clean bathrooms during the day and at night.

“In the end, Raymond Central Public Schools must come together and work for the common good to successfully open and sustain face-to-face instruction for the 2020-2021 school year,” the district wrote on its website. “We are in this together as a team and will take the necessary precautions to keep our students and staff healthy and safe.”

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