By Travis Volz
Students in the Okawville area will be back in school next month after the West Washington County Unit District School Board approved the plan presented by school administrators at the board meeting Thursday.
Superintendent Scott Fuhrhop and principals Keith Senior and Leon Spinka went over the plan, which calls for regular daily attendance by all students with some safety measures.
“Our priority is to get the kids back in school and do it safely,” Fuhrhop said. “We’ve worked hard to put a plan in place that gets students back in front of their teachers, which is the best way for us to educate them.”
The plan, which is available for review on the district website and will be distributed to parents, is the result of substantial effort by administrators and teachers.
Students will be required to wear masks at all times to start the year, and screenings will be done prior to entering the building in the morning. Bus riders will also be screened when they get on the bus as well.
Once in the school building, students will go directly to their classrooms to avoid students congregating. Locker use will be limited, and lunch times will be staggered to allow for social distancing.
“We believe our students need to be here, and we put this plan together with state guidelines and with the local health department,” Senior said.
In addition, grade school classrooms will be disinfected at least once a day, and teachers will disinfect rooms during passing periods.
“What’s good is that we have a big building, so we have the space we need to keep kids separate while still having them in the school,” Fuhrhop said.
Nurse Melinda Albers was also on hand, and she told board members that the nurse’s office will have a space to isolate students who might show symptoms of COVID while at school.
Several matters are still to be determined, such as the length of isolation and how that would affect attendance rates and other matters.
“It’s important to remember that these plans are subject to change based on events outside of our control,” Fuhrhop said.
School administrators have two other sets of plans ready to go if pandemic conditions worsen. If school activities must be severely limited or closed entirely, plans have been prepared for both a mix of remote and classroom learning and totally remote lessons if the schools are required to close again.
“We have Plans A, B, and C, but we’re hoping we can stick with Plan A,” Fuhrhop said. “My hope is that if things take a turn for the worse, we’ll at least have a couple of weeks in school so kids and their teachers can get to know one another, which I think is a big part of the education process.”
Both the administration and the board as a whole agreed that the plan is a viable one, but everyone will have to pull together to make it work.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so everyone from parents to teachers to all of us have to step up and be responsible,” said board member Dennis Litnker.