CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee School District Board of Education members discussed possible safety procedures for dealing with Covid-19 and approved a new academic calendar for the coming school year at their regular monthly meeting Thursday, July 9.
The new calendar, announced publicly via the district’s Facebook page on Friday, shows students arriving for their first day of school Sept. 8. The preceding two weeks will be composed of teacher work days to help facilitate the moving of classroom equipment and supplies from West Elkton Intermediate School — which the board voted to permanently close during a special meeting held July 2 — to facilities at Camden Primary and the Junior and Senior High.
Students will be dismissed one hour early on Wednesday afternoons throughout the 2020-21 school year, according to the updated calendar. Last day of school will be June 4, with the date of 2021 graduation still to be determined.
A substitute bus driver working for the district asked about possible state-mandated safety procedures to be followed on buses, including the rumored installation of PlexiGlass partitions separating students from drivers.
“The State Highway Patrol’s going to have a lot of requirements and say as to what we can provide,” Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop said. “We know that we want to protect the drivers with all those kids coming on and coming off, but it’s gotta be something where the state will say, ‘Yep, that’s the safest way.’”
The prospect of drivers having to wear masks or plastic face shields was also discussed, with some citing the latter as a safety concern, saying the shields could fog over and become a distraction. There was also discussion about state guidelines for the number of students to be allowed on buses.
“There’s no absolute requirements,” Bishop said. “It’s all about what the districts feel they’re comfortable with.”
“In order for us to transport the number of kids that we have and not have double, triple, quadruple the routes, or hiring drivers and having more buses, we’re going to have to have those buses get 30 or 40 kids on,” Bishop continued. “How we make that safe for the kids is a discussion we have to have.”
Providing hand sanitizer stations on buses and having bus drivers check each student’s temperature before allowing them to board were also discussed.
“Kids are going to be closer together on that ride for an hour than they are at any time during the school day,” Bishop said.
Back to School plan
Bishop said that a comprehensive back to school plan should be forthcoming by early August.
“Classrooms, visitors to the building, the hallway changes, lunch rooms, bus seating… every single piece of our operation will have to be laid out as to what the expectations are, for the kids as well as the adults,” Bishop said.
The board discussed contingency plans for when a student or staff member is inevitably diagnosed with Covid-19.
“We’re going to have somebody that’s going to get diagnosed,” Bishop said. “It’s how we react to that. How many days does that kid, and the kids close around them, need to be out? And how do we educate those kids during that time? There can’t be a two-week period where there’s nothing going on with that kid.”
Bishop also stressed that “every school district in the state” is expected to offer some kind of online or at-home option for parents who are uncomfortable having their kids return to school during the ongoing pandemic.
“If a parent, under these circumstances, doesn’t want to send their kid because of whatever factors… we still have a duty to educate those kids,” Bishop said. “Nothing’s going to replace physically sitting in the classroom, with their teacher in front of them, with their peers. That education is going to look different from what you can get on a computer. But we’re going to work to make sure that it’s as good as you can possibly get.”
Board vice president Jeff Wood stressed that new mandates from the state or the governor’s office could come down at any time.
“Things could change. It’s not always up to us,” Wood said. Bishop agreed.
“Any plan that any district puts out right now, there’s an asterisk to it,” Bishop said. “It all depends on what the health department says, or the county, or what the governor says.”
The issue of students wearing face coverings was discussed, with board member Nick Duskey saying that guidelines issued by the state leave the decision up to individual districts.
“I can’t picture a bunch of kids running around with masks on,” board member Gary Rader said.
Board president Julie Singleton said that the decision should be left in the hands of parents.
“I think it should be a choice,” Singleton said.
Bishop stressed that getting through the new school year safely will be a group effort.
“We have to lean on our parents and make sure they’re checking their kids for symptoms and not sending them in with a hundred or more fever,” Bishop said. “Everybody has to be partners in this.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @improperenglish