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Schools to restart in normal mode

Staff writer

After a year of special requirements because of COVID-19, fall classes in county schools will begin as close to pre-pandemic state as possible.

None of the schools will require any students to have COVID vaccinations. Masks will be optional. Hand-washing and sanitizing will still be encouraged.

Marion superintendent Aaron Homburg said that final plans had not yet been made, and could change if an outbreak occurs or a COVID variant arrives.

“It will be as close to pre-2020 as it can be,” Homburg said.

He expects classes to meet in-person starting Aug. 19.

End-of-year tests indicated that students made as much progress as the district would have liked last school year.

“There are always those gaps, and we’re always trying to work to see that those gaps get filled,” he said. “When kids needed extra help on quarantine, teachers would set up a Zoom meeting or email or text to help the child understand what’s going on.”

Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems in the elementary and middle school buildings are being replaced this summer.

“One of the things we learned with the pandemic is we need to have good air flow,” he said.

Hillsboro superintendent Max Heinrichs said that he expected things to be more normal than last year’s hybrid system of having half the middle school and high school students attend in the morning and half in the afternoon.

Classes at Hillsboro also will begin Aug. 19.

“As far as social distancing, our plan is to start with a minimum of three feet,” Heinrichs said.

Cleaning protocols will be the same as last year, he said. Classrooms will be sprayed to disinfect them, and new air filters are being installed.

Centre superintendent Larry Geist said the district planned to start classes as normal Aug. 12.

“We will do what is best for our students and staff while trying to maintain as normal of a learning environment as we can provide,” Geist said. “We will be meeting face-to-face to begin the year and will try to maintain that model as much as possible.”

Air flow will be checked over the summer to make sure any needed work is done.

New to the district this year, Geist said he didn’t know how end-of-year tests came out. If students need additional help because of online instruction last year, they will get the help they need, he said.

“I know there were some challenges in the district with COVID last year — as there were in about every district in the state,” Geist said. “We will continue to monitor any outbreaks in our district and work with the local health department to make decisions based on what is happening in our county and district. We also will closely monitor what the CDC is suggesting as well as state health department guidelines.”

Antoinette Root, Peabody-Burns superintendent, said classes would resume Aug. 18 in-person.

Social distancing will be as typical as the district can make it, she said.

“We’ll look at what the county health department recommends, so we’ll make some judgments from there,” she said.

Root said air purifiers will continue to be used in classrooms, and cleaning practices would remain the same as last year.

Physician and county health consultant Don Hodson said he was content with the districts’ plans. In fact, if he’d known a year ago what he knows now, he wouldn’t have encouraged all the measures taken last year.

“I want to keep it as normal as possible for the kids,” Hodson said.

The more people who are vaccinated and protected, the better it is for everyone, Hodson said.

“The rate of kids dying in relation to old people is 1 in 10,000,” he said.

Last modified July 14, 2021

 

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