‘How can we stay in school the longest?’
Before the Switzerland of Ohio schools can reopen this fall, the district must adopt a COVID-19 plan. But several portions of that plan, including the curriculum and transportation sections, cannot be finalized until the health policy is in place.
The Switzerland of Ohio Board of Education approved the health and wellness portion of the district’s reopening plan at a special board meeting Thursday, July 23 at Swiss Hills Career Center.
The draft plan section was developed by the district’s Health and Wellness Committee and examined by the district’s legal counsel.
The policy addressed a wide variety of issues, such as symptom monitoring, staff response, return to school after COVID-19 illness, and general guidelines for extracurricular activities.
Specific measures for each policy were based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio Department of Education, and other authorities.
The board members reviewed the document in detail before its adoption. Some language was marked for further review because of the board’s concerns.
For example, the visitor policy language seemed to prohibit anyone other than staff or students from entering the buildings. Board members asked whether limiting “non-essential” visitors might be better. Parents who are coming to pick up a sick child, or equipment repair services, would still need to enter buildings.
“Every time we looked at a bullet (topic),” said Assistant Superintendent Cyndi Brill, “we tried to answer the question, ‘How can we stay in school the longest?’ Anything that opened the door to a (virus) vector coming in, that wasn’t totally necessary, resulted in a bullet written like this.”
The board was also concerned that the policy was broad enough to accommodate student needs while still ensuring student and staff safety. For example, some students might not be able to wear certain types of face coverings.
Lydia Brodegard, the health and wellness committee chair, reassured board members that, when properly fitted, both masks and shields meet the face-covering requirement.
However, Brill noted that the district would provide families with a way to request an accommodation for students concerning the reopening plan policies. Requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Mark Romick, of the extracurricular activities committee, provided feedback on those portions of the draft policy.
In addition to temperature taking and other precautions, the policy spelled out the district’s response to COVID-19 symptoms in student-athletes. Any student testing positive, or coming into contact with someone showing symptoms, would not be able to practice for at least 10 days after the symptoms first appeared. If the symptoms persist longer than 10 days, the student must be symptom-free for at least 24 hours before returning. A negative test, along with a doctor’s release, would also be required.
Romick and the board also discussed transportation to games and masking in locker rooms and during gameplay. Band and cheer squad guidelines were still being developed.
Having reviewed the draft health and wellness section, the board voted to adopt it with the recommended changes. The complete reopening plan will be distributed to staff and student families after being finalized. Also during the special
Also during the special meeting, the board approved an expanded Blue Sky Virtual Academy contract with the Ohio Valley Educational Service Center. This online-only option provides instruction, mentoring and technical support to replace in-school learning. However, students must be enrolled for an entire semester, and the decision must be made before the school year begins. The district contract for 2020- 2021 includes instruction for kindergarten through 12th grade. Previously, only students older than fifth grade could attend the virtual academy.