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KCSD offers in-depth look at phased reopening plan

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Guidance secretary Tanya Walker, along with secretaries Hollie Moore and Michelle Bechdel wear their masks while they work on Friday afternoon in the administrative offices of the Keystone Central School District.

MILL HALL — There are many things that have to happen and take shape as the Keystone Central School District begins a “phased reopening” of its schools in preparation for the 2020-21 school year.

And one thing’s for sure — everybody in the schools will be required to wear masks.

“In our original plan, the masks were going to be optional in the at-school phase for students. At that time, the recommendation was (masking) for older students. Now that the governor’s order says for all students above age 2, that’s all of our students. We are going to have to be compliant with Gov. Wolf’s most recent order. I know that doesn’t make all of our families happy, but it is something that we’re required to do,” Superintendent Jacquelyn Martin said. “Masking will apply to anyone on school grounds — students, teachers and staff.”

Martin said: “All staff and students will be required to wear a mask or face covering unless they qualify for an exemption. There are some exemptions in the order … but, again, we cannot ask for documentation as to why a student or a staff member would meet those requirements.”

For those who cannot wear masks or face coverings, they will have to strongly adhere to social distancing.

“Anyone without a face covering must maintain a distance from others of six feet,” Martin said.

At Thursday night’s KCSD school board work session — which was held via Zoom — Martin talked at length about the phased reopening and the district’s health and safety plan as schools reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed schools throughout the Commonwealth in mid-March.

“In May through July, we’ve been working on research, communication and planning,” Martin explained. “As you can imagine, that research works really great until more research comes out and more governor orders come out and things from PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) change. As some superintendents put it, ‘the Earth moving under our feet’ as we try to get ready for the phased reopening.”

KCSD recently announced that families would have three choices for learning in the fall: Learn at school (traditional face-to-face instruction); hybrid (students work on remote learning at school in a learning environment that follows increased safety precautions); learn at home (remote learning with the KCSD curriculum and teachers or KCSD virtual academy).

“Keystone Central is looking at flexible learning solutions that give parents voice and choice for their individual students,” Martin said.

Based on the response from surveys sent to families, parents in the Keystone Central School District want their children back in classrooms when schools reopen for the 2020-21 school year. Martin said that approximately 800 forms have been returned. To date, 75 percent of those responding are opting for traditional face-to-face learning inside the classroom. A total of 10 percent have selected the in-school/remote environment. Meanwhile, 15 percent of respondents have selected the online learning option.

“We currently are in the process of collecting information from families about their choice of learning. When we have that information at the end of July, we’ll make final preparations for opening our schools as long as we stay in the green or in the yellow phase,” Martin said.

Clinton County is currently in Gov. Tom Wolf’s green phase. However, as COVID-19 numbers throughout the state continue to climb, some counties could revert back to yellow or red before schools open.

As the schools prepare for phased reopening, Martin said that deep cleaning has been completed for all buildings during the closure. Facilities will be cleaned and sanitized every day with additional focus on all doors and high traffic areas. The district has purchased bathroom fogging sanitizers and all bathrooms will be once a day. All buildings have central air installed with fresh air ventilation set at 25 percent.

All building teachers will have hand sanitizer and wipes for staff and student use. All cafeterias and large group areas will have automatic hand sanitizer stations. All water fountains will be closed and converted into water bottle filling stations. Signage and safety protocols will be posted prominently in all buildings.

As far as transportation is concerned, Martin said that all buses will be fogged and wiped down daily. Bus drivers and aides will have a mask and/or face shield. Windows will be down on buses when possible to improve ventilation.

Additionally, all staff members, including coaches and bus drivers, will be required to complete a safety training on COVID-19 and hygiene practices. All students will receive instruction on COVD-19 and hygeine practices, according to the health and safety plan.

The first day of school in the district is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 1.

The board will look to vote on the phased reopening plan at the voting meeting on Thursday, July 16. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and will be held via Zoom.

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