WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South Superintendent Scott Cottingim updated the TVCLSD Board of Education on TVS’ back-to-school plan during its meeting on Monday, July 27.
The board voted to approve the updated school calendar where students will begin school on Aug. 24, a week later than the initial Aug. 17 start date, while teachers will still come begin on the Aug. 17 for increased professional development and training for the upcoming year.
Preparation for students attending school will begin at home, where parents will be expected to do temperature checks and keep their children home if they are not feeling well. Cottingim also encouraged parents to inform the school if students are experiencing symptoms, and the school can then direct them to the health department or to the school nurse.
He also said a plan is in place if a student begins to exhibit symptoms while they are at school.
“If we’ve got a kid who’s not feeling well, not acting well, of course we will send them to the nurse, the nurse will give an examination,” he said. “If they need to be quarantined before they get picked up, all those things are in place.”
If a student was to test positive or a student interacts with someone who tests positive, the Preble County Health Department will required them to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school.
“With some of that we’re expecting to come, that’s another reason why we wanted to push back the start of the school to get some training for some distance learning with our staff so that when that kid is out for 14 days, he’s not just getting packet after packet of work, but he’s getting access to a lesson which was recorded,” Cottingim said.
Face masks will be required for students and staff, though Cottingim did not specify if this begins at a certain grade level.
“Students are going to be required to wear face coverings where social distancing is difficult,” he said. “This would include coming in and out of school, walking in the hallways, entering and exiting a classroom, working in a small group. Anytime you can’t get enough distance, you will have to have that on.”
Face masks will also be required on school buses and while in line for lunch or while moving around the cafeteria. While Cottingim said there will be opportunities for students to take their masks off, such as when they are more than six feet from anybody, they will still need to keep their masks on them in case they become required.
This policy will extend to school staff who will be required to wear a face mask or face shield while in the presence of students or any time they are within six feet of another person.
Beyond encouraging students to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, additional steps will be taken to help maintain good hygiene at the school.
“Not only will our janitors give everything a good cleaning at the end of the day, we will be cleaning in between class periods or in between breaks,” Cottingim said. “All classes will have hand sanitizers and spray to clean doorknobs and desks in high-touch areas.”
Students will also see changes at lunch, where the administration will look to avoid large groups of students congregating, many of whom will not be wearing masks as they are not required while students are eating lunch.
“We’ve had ideas of eating in the courtyards, maybe even the auditorium. I know some of our students in the high school especially, they go to some teachers rooms. Again, that’s got to have adult supervision,” he said. “So, you know, I’m not going to require a teacher to have kids in their rooms, but sometimes that happens — if they are able to sit in the courtyard, we’re gonna allow it as long as we can get them covered with adults.”
Lunch times will also be staggered throughout the day with no visitors or volunteers will be allowed. Students will also not be allowed to do self-service lunch, with food either being put on their trays or trays with food being given to them.
Cottingim then explained that students attending school in-person will be dependent on the state’s COVID-19 advisory system, which is a color-coded map dictating the level of public emergency that each county is at with Level 1 (active exposure and spread) being the lowest and Level 4 (severe exposure and spread) being the highest.
When Preble County is under a Level 1 or 2, Twin Valley South will operate under its “All-In” plan, which means all students will have the option of attending in-person classes starting on Aug. 24 and will follow the various rules established above.
If the county, which is currently under a Level 2, were to rise to Level 3, the district would transition to a “Hybrid” plan where schools would be at 50 percent capacity with students alternating days on the school campus.
Cottingim said students would likely be sorted alphabetically to determine who would go on which day, but said that the school will be accommodating families if the initial arrangements do not work.
Level 4 has not yet been reached by any county in Ohio, but if Preble County were to rise to Level 4, Twin Valley South would return to complete remote learning with all students staying home, where Cottingim said they finished last school year.
“Our hopes is that we most definitely stay in the yellow and orange,” he said. “We can get back to educating our students with the best way we see fit.”
Some additional notes include that all field trips for the upcoming school year have been canceled, and the administration will revisit their policy of 7-12 students not carrying backpacks and consider eliminating student use of lockers as to avoid students congregating. Additionally, bus routes will be examined to avoid needing 2-3 students per seat.
More details can be found in Twin Valley South’s full Return to School plan, which Cottingim said would be released to the public later in the week.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles