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Leon County students required to wear masks on buses and in hallways under current reopening plan

(WCTV)
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 3:11 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Re-Open Leon Schools Task Force reconvened Monday morning to answer concerns and give guidance on protocols as the district gets ready to reopen in the fall.

The most talked about point was that as of Monday, the group has decided masks will be recommended, but not required, in the classrooms. Students will be required to wear masks on buses and during class transitions. The task force says classrooms will be spaced out as much as possible.

You can watch the full meeting, which broadcast live on the Leon County Schools Facebook page, here.

June 22 Re-Open Task Force Meeting

Monday, June 22 meeting of the LCS Re-Open Schools Task Force. A presentation by Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox, Safety & Security John Hunkiar, Food Services James Howcroft, Transportation James Cole, Student Activities Ricky Bell, and more.

Posted by Leon County Schools on Monday, June 22, 2020

Below, you’ll find an in-depth breakdown of Monday’s meeting.

DAILY HEALTH SCREENING

Schools will do infrared temperature checks, and look at signs and symptoms students may show. Whoever does the testing will stay 6 feet away with a mask on. There is a training video for this. If after assessment of testing and the child does not look well, the child can be sent to clinic for second assessment, and put in a quarantine area before going back to parents.

SCHOOL SAFETY

There are challenges for fall reopening when it comes to compliance with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act (which makes sure schools have law enforcement officers on every campus). Schools have active shooter training drills once a month, but with social distancing, it is not a best practice. They will therefore need to modify the drills.

Laptops and tablets will be in every student’s hand, which will raise suspicious activity level. The security team will need to raise social media monitoring. They also advocate their anonymous reporting systems.

At the moment, in almost all of the schools in the district, there is 100% single point of entry. But with daily wellness checks, the district will need to re-verify the point of entry locations. At the moment, the district has more than 3,000 cameras, which can help with contact tracing if they have any students test positive.

TRANSPORTING STUDENTS

Transportation recommendations include daily temperature checks for drivers and assistants, mandatory masks and gloves for bus drivers and assistants, and mandatory masks for students. Drivers must provide masks if students don’t have their own. Hand sanitizer must be on buses, and they will be sanitized and disinfected between runs .

The task force says drivers have been trained. They will inspect buses prior to students returning and between runs. When buses are not running, windows will be open for ventilation. The district will limit field trips and is even considering canceling them altogether.

ENTERING SCHOOL BUILDINGS

Construction workers at school sites will have temperature checks at point of entry. They will practice social distancing, and if they can’t, they will wear masks. They have installed hand washing stations and hand sanitizer at all sites and on person. Construction sites are always separated from students and teachers. They are willing to work after hours or create physical fencing for separation from students and teachers.

Those that do not feel safe or feel sick are encouraged to not show up to work.

As far as measures for cleaning and disinfecting, the group clarifies the difference between ‘sanitize’ and ‘disinfect'. Sanitize references everyday cleaning products, while disinfect addresses hard surfaces and destroying active fungus and bacteria.

The task force discussed supplemental staff absenteeism. They ask to always having fill-ins, and a possible long term solution which could be found in the use certified small businesses. Staff will be trained to sanitize everything first, and then disinfect. They will use standardized products and equipment, and make sure all schools use the same products.

During the meeting, a class cleaning schedule for all students, which would differ between high, middle and elementary schools, was discussed. This is because high and middle school students move from class to class. Elementary schools will be cleaned throughout the day, and deep cleaned after hours.

If there are incidents, class spaces will be cleaned afterwards. They will also clean playgrounds.

SERVING MEALS

James Howcroft says they need assistance from staff of cafeteria and school and students and volunteers. As far as community outreach goes, they are asking for a marketing program that will inform parents.

Cafeteria Operations will include employees taking their temperatures and wearing face masks. Students must practice social distancing, and there will also be signs in place. Staff will social distance in both the kitchen and cafeteria. The cashier is non-contact, as they will have Plexiglas barriers. Hand sanitizer, disposable trays and utensils will all be available.

Breakfast will be picked up and taken to the classroom or offered at bus pick up or after the bell. For lunch for students between kindergarten and second grade, it will be delivered to the classroom. For grades third through fifth, they will pick up meals at the cafeteria door and return to class.

Middle school students will pick up their food and eat in classrooms or outside locations (gym, media center). The same policy will be applied for the high school students. Those high school students that are allowed to eat lunch outside of school will still be allowed to do so. The cafeteria will be closed for dining.

Training for staff will include them cleaning as they go, wearing gloves, hairnets, aprons, and masks. Their training will include SFS Pac Portion training, FDOH updates, in staff videos and training, virtual meetings, manuals, and in person training for those who don’t have access to technology.

There are some considerations that they would like to have discussed in the coming weeks: How many students are allowed back? Who brings their own lunch? The amount of staff? Will they provide food for after school programs? Do they need to provide take home meals? Who goes off campus for lunch?

The meal department has already ordered food for August.

STUDENT ACTIVITIES AND GATHERINGS

Scott Hansen and Ricky Bell shared that for returning to sports, they will follow protocols and conditions throughout the summer. Come fall, there will be no locker assignments, no showers or locker rooms and no field trips or pep rallies.

Athletes must clean and sanitize equipment after each use, enact other health and safety practices, and regulate gathering spaces. Individual fall sports should be able to return to play as normal (swimming, golf, cross country). Fall team sports will follow FHSSA guidelines, which will be enacted on July 27.

If no fans are allowed to physically watch games, the district will have individuals enter by the following tiers:

  • Tier 1: coaches, medical, security, participants, officials
  • Tier 2: media, volunteers
  • Tier 3: spectators and vendors

For middle school, Bell and Hansen say they are looking at flip-flopping sports, keeping team sports for spring and individual sports for fall.

SUPPORTING, TEACHING AND LEARNING

Tonia Fitzgerald and Kim Scott discussed Mental and Emotional Wellness for their student body. For their teachers, they discussed SEL, which involves teacher training, and implementation support.

The state requires teachers and staff to be trained on mental health, suicide prevention, and human trafficking prevention. There is also required instruction for students involving mental and emotional health education, substance abuse and prevention and human trafficking. They believe this can be easily moved to a web-based format.

School counselors, school psychologists and school social workers are all part of a ‘problem solving team.' They hope to do most of their work virtually. Currently, they are equipped to have 13 elementary groups, nine middle teams, seven high school teams and five charter school teams.

EMPLOYEE SAFETY AND RISK

Brett Shively shared the district will implement stringent social distancing standards for employees. There is protocol for PPE (using cloth masks when social distancing isn’t possible). LCS will also provide PPE and disinfectant supplies for employees. There will be training for proper use of equipment, recognition of symptoms, and appropriate disinfectant use.

There will also be daily health screenings and record keeping, and they will require isolation if needed.

The task force says the district is working on planning alternative assignments for at risk staff who can’t return. They have also considered staffing contingency planning. LCS asks for additional availability for substitute teachers and custodial staff members. The district hopes to work with labor unions to revisit aspects of collective bargaining agreements.

Affected employees will be refereed to their personal health care providers or the district’s workers compensation carrier.

WHEN SICKNESS OCCURS AT SCHOOL

Terri Anderson, the health and wellness coordinator for LCS, said it is ”not an if but a when” regarding coronavirus cases coming to schools.

The process for identifying a sick student starts with a teacher recognizing symptoms. Following that, symptomatic students will wait in a separate area for pick up. If a physician advises it, the student can get tested for COVID-19. Finally, physician approval is required for a student to return to school.

The district does not want students who may be positive to be in the school clinics, where students with diabetes or other illnesses may be. They have enacted a new fever rule, which requires students who register a fever during checks to stay home until they’ve been fever free for 72-hours. If someone tests positive, the DOH will then interview the positive student to see who they came in contact with, to see if others need to be quarantined.

OTHER TAKEAWAYS FROM MEETING

The task force discussed removing excess furniture to create more space in classrooms.

Temperatures will be checked once students get to school, not before getting on bus. Only the mask will protect them on the bus.

Right now, if a student is doing in-person work and they become ill, their coursework will not be virtual for those 14 days of quarantine. The district says it has ways for sick kids to obtain their in-person work for them to complete at home.

“Sick kids are nothing new to us… We have policy and procedures for how to get work to student,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Alan Cox said.

Cleaning will be done by current bus staff. LCS says they have been doing that since before spring break. The only thing they added is that the more used areas are being cleaned more frequently.

Masks are required in buses and hallways, but not in classrooms.

“We are doing everything. We encourage and do training and education to our community when it comes to masks,” Dr. Cox said. “This is national issue right now as you know. If we cannot maintain social distancing we will require masks. If we can get the social distancing going on, we may have the children pull their masks down, but I am not saying that anything is in confirmation right now.”

Dr. Cox said Title 1 schools are typically the older schools in our district. Classrooms may not be big enough for class sizes and social distancing. Title 1 schools typically have a small teacher-to-student ratio. The district says they need to get creative with how they can separate students in other classrooms

Anderson says if they are screening people, they have to deal with what is right in front of them. As far as those who are asymptomatic and don’t know if they have the virus, the masks and social distancing come in to prevent spread.

A question was brought up during the meeting in regards to how the district will implement social distancing on a bus. LCS says they took a look at that.

LCS says if they social distanced on buses, they would have to make 1,000 runs a day. Currently, LCS makes close to 300. The district would also have to purchase 30 new buses, which would cost close to $6 million.

That is why it will be mandatory to have masks on buses: They can’t afford to social distance on buses at this time.

As far as student enrollment goes, Dr. Cox says they have big concerns. They are trying to be fiscally responsible with the amount of staff they have considering the number of students. They believe cuts will be made.

In regards to minimizing foot traffic by having teachers change classrooms instead of students, LCS says they have talked about that, but it goes back to student cohort groups. The elementary level already has something like that in place. The district still has to have those conversations with principals.

The task force acknowledged it’s harder to have teachers change classrooms instead of students in middle and high schools because of the amount of courses.

The current policy is that the days students take out for quarantine and fever check are considered excused absences.

“Masks are only as good as effectively as they are worn,” Coco McClelland says. “It can be very difficult, you can almost create another problem with wearing the masks.”

McClelland said that in response to a question about masks and uniform policy.

Dr. Cox says principals know their campuses, and they will be relying on them for how to move students around. There are other common areas they are looking into (media centers, auditoriums, etc.) to move larger classes so social distancing can be maintained.

As far as the returning of teachers, the task force says it just finished a re-appointment process. District directors have asked principals to ask staff what they want in regards to fall. They are now receiving information back to see what classroom structure will look like. Some teachers have retired, and others have come back. Those open positions will first be given to already employed teachers, then expanded to the public.

There has not been discussion on testing teachers on a weekly basis.

There is a Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which gives two weeks of pay to employees while they are quarantined. However, it is a one time thing, so if employees are asked to quarantine twice, the paid leave can only be applied once (same with childcare). With childcare, they can get a potential additional 10 weeks of paid leave, which was enacted through another act.

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