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McKenzie School Board Approves Reopening Plan

Posted 7/21/20

McKENZIE (July 14) — The McKenzie Special School District Board of Education met Tuesday at McKenzie Middle School to address the reopening of schools. After hearing plans from the three school …

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McKenzie School Board Approves Reopening Plan

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McKENZIE (July 14) — The McKenzie Special School District Board of Education met Tuesday at McKenzie Middle School to address the reopening of schools. After hearing plans from the three school principals, and other officials, the board approved with a 4-1 vote the plan to reopen schools August 4.

Director of Schools Lynn Watkins opened the discussion by saying the district officials and school administrators are “excited” about what they have come up with after “quite a bit of work.”

Food Service Supervisor Greg Jones addressed the board first. He explained the “touch-less system” cafeterias will be utilizing. Cafeteria staff will serve all students coming through the serving line. All schools have installed plasticware dispensers that dispense utensils one at time. Water and other beverages will not be dispensed as normal inside the cafeteria. All students will be issued a reusable water bottle, and touch-less water dispensers have been installed in each school. Milk will still be provided. There will also be bottled beverages available for purchase in the middle and high school cafeterias.

Menus will be condensed while still meeting the daily requirements for reimbursable meals. There will be no salad bars, but individual salads will be available. All condiments will be in small plastic containers or individual packets.

Tables will be spaced as much as possible with as few students seated at each table as possible.

Elementary Principal Tonya Brown spoke next.

It will be recommended, but not mandatory, that masks are worn. Each child will have a temperature check as they arrive and enter the building. Visitors will not be allowed inside, which means parents will not be allowed to walk their child to class the first week as usual. To mitigate this, the school will take and provide a complimentary photo of each student with their teacher on the first day.

Upon arriving, elementary students will no longer report to the gymnasium but directly to their classroom to hang their backpacks and then go to breakfast. After breakfast, students will report to their classroom and remain in the hall until class begins.

Bathroom breaks will be scheduled for each class.

Multiple classes will no longer combine for P.E.

Classes will play together in designated parts of the playground and will rotate to a different part each day.

For dismissal, students who are picked up will sit by homeroom in the gym and front lobby. School officials are coordinating with bus officials on a plan for bus riders.

Kindergarten students will begin with a five-day staggered schedule.

Sanitizing supplies will be provided for each classroom.

Middle School Principal Dorethea Royle addressed the board next.

Students will remain with their homeroom throughout most of the day as they rotate from class to class and during rotation time, with the exception of band students. Students will remain with their homerooms during RTI through August. In September, they will move into specific RTI groups, and some students may be split from their homerooms,

At the onset of the school year, students will learn skills related to social distancing and sanitization.

Seating and desks are spaced at least six feet apart where feasible.

Movement in the halls will be limited during class changes. Outside entrances may be used for transitions when possible at the discretion of teachers. Directional tape will remind students to always walk on the right side of the hall. Locker access and bathroom breaks will be built into class time to limit large groups.

Upon arrival, students will enter the gymnasium. Girls will be released at 7:15 a.m. to go to their grade-level teacher on duty until the bell rings, while boys remain in the gym seated by grade and social distancing. Teachers and administrators will reinforce seating requirements.

For dismissal, car riders and walkers will dismiss first, two grades at a time. Bus riders must remain with their teacher until 3:15 p.m.

All students will have temperatures checked upon entering the building. A child with a temperature of 100.4 degrees of higher will be sent to the nurse for an additional check. If the temperature is verified to be 100.4 or higher, the student will be placed in the waiting room and parents will be called. If a student’s temperature is close to, but not above 100.4, periodic checks will be done by the nurse.

A school-wide assembly is usually held on the first day to introduce staff and set a positive tone for the school year. Weather permitting, all grades will assemble at the football field. If weather is a factor, multiple assemblies will be held in the gym.

Students and staff are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. Sanitizing supplies will be provided.

Finally, Principal Kelly Spivey presented plans for the high school.

Temperatures will be checked each day as students enter. If a student has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, they will be given a mask and taken to the isolation room. Parents, the nurse and the director of schools will be contacted.

Upon arrival, students will report to the gymnasium instead of the back lobby to allow for spacing. They will be released for breakfast at 7:15 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. to spread out the flow of students.

No visitors will be allowed. Parents with scheduled meetings and anyone else entering the building must wear a mask.

During activity period, students will space out utilizing the theatre, soccer field, football practice field and walking circle when possible.

Desks and Chromebooks will be cleaned between classes.

Freshmen orientation is Tuesday, July 28. Students and parents will gather in the gym, then dismiss by homeroom to the cafeteria, library, theatre or gym. Teachers are encouraged to keep orientation brief.

Time will be dedicated to social, emotional and life skills for underclassmen. Seniors, however, will use that time for ACT preparation.

On the first day of school, the entire school will assemble in the gym to be addressed by Spivey and two senior speakers.

Director Watkins provided documents explaining district-wide guidelines and precautions.

The status of school operations will be determined, in part, by the level of the spread of COVID-19 in the community. The plan lays out four scenarios.

If there are no cases in the community, schools will operate as normal.

If there is a low spread of cases, which Watkins identified as the current scenario, students will attend school as usual. Precautions may include: required masking of food-service personnel, utilization of multiple dining areas, additional hand-sanitizing stations, enhanced distancing in classrooms, cafeterias, hallways and buses and assigned bus seating.

Under low spread, athletic and extracurricular activities operate according to TSSAA/TMSAA guidelines. Mass assemblies and gatherings will be suspended. Masks will be allowed but not required. Field trips will be limited. Additional sanitizing of high-touch areas and school buses will occur, and additional precautions will be implemented as necessary.

If there is moderate spread in the community, students will receive devices to download weekly assignments. Teachers and staff will report to school sites and be available for support, questions, etc. Daily assignments will mirror a typical school day. Some students may continue on-campus activities, such as ESL and therapies. On-campus activities may require masks and will require social distancing. Feeding services may be initiated, depending on allowability by the Tennessee Department of Education. Athletic and extracurricular activities will be suspended. Additional precautions will be based on guidance from local, state and federal health officials.

If there is high spread of COVID-19 in the community, students will receive devices to download weekly assignments, and remote learning will occur. Temperature scans will be utilized for all on-campus visitors. Teachers and staff may be asked to work from home to deliver online instruction. Daily instruction will mirror a typical school day. Activities will be discontinued on campus. Anyone on-site will require social distancing and masks when in the presence of others. Feeding services may be initiated, depending on allowability by the Tennessee Department of Education. Field trips will be suspended. Athletic and extracurricular activities will be suspended. Additional precautions will be based on guidance from local, state and federal health officials.

Also provided was a management plan for cases of COVID-19 based on “expert advice and CDC recommendations as applicable, enforceable and responsive within a school system.” The plan begins with a recognition that, “The district has taken efforts to mitigate risks, but risks of attending public school within a national pandemic exist for students and staff.”

For the first four weeks of school, temperature checks will occur for every student and adult entering a building. Thereafter, the frequency of checks for students will depend on the number of high readings in each school. If the number of high-temperature readings is low or none, checks will be one day per week. If the number is moderate, temperatures will be checked two or three times per week. If the number is high or if there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school, checks will be daily. Additional checks will be done as needed throughout the day.

Criteria for intervention in the management plan are a confirmed temperature (multiple checks with a resting period) of 100.4 or higher, any of the possible symptoms of COVID-19 identified by the CDC or a known exposure to the virus.

The action plan for when a person meets the intervention criteria begins with employing social-distancing techniques by instructing the individual to wear a mask and isolating them to the best extent possible. The nurse or designee attending to the individual should use standard precautions and personal protective equipment.

Parents or guardians will then be contacted to report symptoms and verify potential exposure to a diagnosed person.

Those who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms with a corresponding fever above 100.4 degrees should be sent home. The parent or guardian will be responsible for making decisions regarding treatment.

Students and staff should not return until one of the following conditions are met: a health care provider has confirmed that the individual’s illness is not due to COVID-19 because another explanation has been identified (diagnoses of upper respiratory tract infection, pneumonia or viral illness do not exclude COVID-19 and will not be considered adequate); the individual has evidence of a positive COVID-19 molecular/PCR test and has isolated for 10 days with no symptoms for 72 hours immediately prior to returning (results of antibody tests will not be considered proof of immunity or lack of infection); the individual has been well for at least 72 hours and has documentation of two negative tests at least 24 hours apart during the most recent absence (results of tests that precede the dates of the most recent absence are not acceptable, nor are results of antibody tests); or the individual has self-isolated for a period of 10 days with no symptoms for 72 hours immediately prior to returning, regardless of test results or lack thereof.

In the event of a confirmed, documented case of COVID-19 involving students or staff, the school will work with local health officials. Contact tracing and communication of confirmed cases will be managed on a case-by-case basis. Confidentiality will be maintained in accordance with ADA and HIPPA. The individual will not be allowed to return to school for a minimum of 10 days. The person must be symptom-free for 72 hours immediately prior to returning. All students who have been in close contact (defined by the state health department as within six feet for 10 or more minutes) with a confirmed case will quarantine at home for 14 days.

All staff members are designated as essential critical workers and will be permitted to continue work following potential exposure, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented, including daily pre-screening, regular monitoring, mask-wearing and social distancing.

Students quarantined based on close-contact exposure will not be required to fulfill the aforementioned re-entry expectations so long as they do not demonstrate symptoms or fever during the 14 days.

All returning students will be re-admitted through the school clinic to confirm the absence of symptoms. These students may be provided more frequent health and fever checks.

When considering a school closure, factors to be evaluated include student and teacher attendance rates, availability of substitute teachers and impact on the community. The schools will work with local health and emergency management departments. The management plan declines to quantify a specific number or percentage that would trigger a closure. It does indicate if the county sees a sharp increase in infection rates and active cases were to approach or exceed one percent of the population (280), schools may close for an undetermined number of days. This number is a benchmark and may change. It may be necessary to close individual schools for short periods of time.

In the event of a school closure, the school will transition to virtual learning.

Other factors that will be considered during the pandemic include, but are not limited to: a sharp rise in new cases in the county; hospital admissions and capacity; guidance from the county health department; and recommendations from the Tennessee Department of Education or the governor. The district will tighten restrictions as needed.

Director Watkins said administrators would encourage regular use of Chromebooks to better prepare everyone for potential virtual learning. He said staff will be encouraged to wear masks and there will be times when it would be necessary.

He said, “We’ve got to be absolutely positive about what we’re doing. We are happy they are here, and we want them to be happy we’re here. We want to teach them that we’re doing the right thing by having them distance, by having them change a few things. We want to shed a positive light on every bit of that, because our kids cannot learn the way they can learn face-to-face any other way. It’s just not possible.”

Board member LaShonda Williams praised the plan, but noted the rise in cases in McKenzie and that some are children. Watkins noted things could change in the three weeks before August 4.

Williams asked if a mask requirement had been considered. Watkins said, “Not at this point,” but noted there were scenarios where that could change, including some laid out in the management plan. He said masks would be recommended and hoped that the leaders would set good examples by wearing them.

Board Chairman John Austin inquired about transportation. Watkins said the county-run buses would operate with some changes. There will be assigned seating and controlled loading and unloading.

A motion was made to approve the district-wide Guidelines for School Re-opening and Precautions and the COVID-19 Management Plan. Board members John Austin, Jan Latimer, Jon Davis and Lance Rider voted for approval, Williams voted against and Greg Barker was absent.

The meeting adjourned after 45 minutes.

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