LIMESTONE TWP. – With the start of the school year fast approaching, Clarion-Limestone Area School District officials last week released details on the district’s Phased Reopening Health and Safety Plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
The plan — which was approved by the board at its July 22 meeting — details practices and procedures for classroom management, food services, scheduling, masks, transportation and disinfecting. Coinciding with Gov. Tom Wolf’s phased reopening plan, C-L’s plan also outlines contingencies in case the state requires more restrictive phases for reopening.
“Although we will be in the Green Phase when we enter school, we want to reassure you that the Yellow Phase is very similar to the Green Phase,” C-L superintendent Amy Glasl explained in a video detailing the district’s phased reopening plan, which was played for board members, staff and parents gathered at the Limestone Fire Department pavilion for last week’s meeting. “We’re taking extra precaution in the Green Phase so if, and when, the Yellow Phase happens we won’t have to do things much differently than what we’re doing.”
According to Glasl, two modes of instruction will be available to students to start the new school year — in-person instruction at the school and an online, at home option — both of which will be provided by C-L teachers. A third, very limited option is for students to be placed into a principal-and-superintendent-approved cyber school.
“We want the very best education for your child,” Glasl said, noting that the plan calls for students, parents and teachers to maintain familiarity with online instruction.
To that end, she said, face-to-face classes will meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, leaving Wednesdays for district-wide online instruction, and faculty lesson prep and development.
“On Wednesdays, the teachers will make online plans for the whole next week,” Glasl said, explaining that if the district would have to shutdown again, teachers and students would not have to learn a new process in order to make the switch to full-time online education. “The teachers are already going to know how to do [online education] and plan for it.”
When asked by the board why the break was coming in the middle rather than at the end of the week, elementary school principal Kristie Taylor pointed out that not only would it give the custodial staff the opportunity to thoroughly clean the school buildings mid-week, but it would also provide a much needed mental health break for everyone dealing with the new restrictions.
“School is going to look very different this year with all the extra guidelines,” Taylor said, noting that the new procedures will be especially difficult for the younger students. “It will lower the kids’ stress levels mid-week and help them decompress before they come back.”
Glasl’s video also addressed the heated issue of wearing masks during the school day. She said that students and staff members will be required to wear face coverings in hallways and common areas during class transitions, when social distancing is not physically possible, and when entering and exiting school buildings. Students will also be required to wear face coverings while traveling on a school bus. Masks and face shields will be provided by the district to students and staff, or can be brought from home.
“Please note that none of these plans require your child to wear a mask or face shield all day,” board member Rebecca Allison said in a prepared statement to those attending the meeting. “In specific situations, yes; all day, no.”
In addition, the district’s plan calls for students to utilize the school cafeteria and “alternate locations to provide better physical distancing” during lunchtime. In the event the school district is mandated to close, meal programs will continue.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, the plan states that high-touch surfaces and restrooms will be cleaned with disinfectant, buildings and buses will be disinfected nightly, and sanitizer and wipes will be available in all classrooms and school lobbies.
While the district’s Phased Reopening Health and Safety Plan required an affirmative vote from the board before it’s sent to the state Department of Education for final approval, Glasl pointed out that the plan is a “working document” and can change depending on the latest Department of Health restrictions, as well as feedback received from parents, students and staff members.
“This plan is what we know of it today,” she said, noting that parents, students and staff can email questions and concerns regarding the plan on the district’s website. “Know that this is a work in progress and can be amended.”
Offering her opinion of the process and the plan, Allison said, “As a school board, we must address and respect the needs and concerns of all, and no one group or family is going to receive everything they desire in a plan.”
She continued that in order for the district to succeed and “make the best of a challenging situation,” everyone involved must be willing to compromise.
“In the best of circumstances, there are no perfect options,” she said. “It’s my hope that we can all appeal to our rational natures and see these plans for what they are — options for each and every family to make their own personal choice.”
C-L’s complete Health and Safety Plan can be found on the district’s website, www.clasd.net.