For the first time since mid-March, Powell school buildings will open for classes on Monday as summer school begins. Parents and school staff will be screening students for COVID-19 symptoms, …
For the first time since mid-March, Powell school buildings will open for classes on Monday as summer school begins. Parents and school staff will be screening students for COVID-19 symptoms, starting with temperature checks.
“During this time period, we have to be very vigilant, because if we have even one case that comes into our schools, we have to shut down for at least one day while we sort through things,” said Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1.
More cases could extend a shutdown or even lead to the end of the summer session, Curtis told the Powell school board last week.
“So we are going to be hyper vigilant,” he said, “And we’re going to ask parents to be that way as well.”
Parents will be asked to do a pre-screening by checking their child’s temperature and monitoring them for symptoms of the new coronavirus.
The school district has developed “a multi-tiered system of screening,” which will include mass temperature checks. Curtis said the district purchased thermal scanners to take surface temperatures of kids’ foreheads.
“Even if they come up five at a time, it grabs onto all of them,” he said.
The superintendent told the school board the scanners are “not tremendously accurate, because it’s surface temperature.” It can swing or fluctuate if a child just ran from the bus or if it’s hot or cold outside, Curtis said.
“However, what it can do is scan for anomalies,” he said, “so it helps us identify anomalies as they’re coming in.”
If a student is “on the hot side,” Curtis said trained staff will do a manual temperature scan.
A student with a fever will go to an isolation room, and the school will call their parents or guardians to take the child home, he said.
That procedure is very similar to the district’s current policies for children running a temperature, Curtis told the board, “there’s just never been a time where enforcement of that policy will be quite so rigorous.”
Approximately 159 kids in kindergarten through sixth grade are signed up for summer school, along with around 60 middle school students and 30 to 40 high schoolers.
For high school students, the summer session is only for credit recovery, and much of the work will be done online, with a teacher who checks in with students remotely.
Younger students will be at school — but with class sizes limited to 10 or 11, Curtis said it will be possible to accomplish social distancing in large classrooms.
Students will be served pre-packaged snacks “so that we can guarantee sanitation safety, not spreading germs through plates and napkins,” he said.
“We’re asking students to bring their own water bottles to minimize the number of students who are using water fountains,” Curtis added.
Schools also are using heightened cleaning practices. Since custodians already finished the summer cleaning, they will be able to walk through at least a couple of times a day to clean high-touch surfaces.
Transportation will be provided for students during summer school, with only one student allowed per seat on the bus (though kids who live in the same household can sit together).
The summer school plan was submitted to the Wyoming Department of Education as an amendment to the district’s remote learning plan. Curtis said the district had “very robust discussion” about summer school with Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin, who signed off on the plan June 24.
As for the district’s fall reopening plan, Curtis said it’s “a work in progress” and mostly complete. Plans must be submitted to the Department of Education by Aug. 3.
On Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow released a Smart Start guidance document, which provides requirements, recommendations and considerations for three tiers of possible reopening and operating scenarios.
“Our efforts to adapt to the COVID-19 environment have been immense over the last three months,” Balow said in a statement. “Today, as we look to open schools in the fall, I am confident that we will be successful and also transform our school system for the better.”
Initial results from a survey of local parents/guardians showed “the vast majority of parents are ready to get their kids back in school,” Curtis said.
The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/PCSD20-21smartstart and will close this week.
“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of your child as we plan to re-enter school buildings this fall,” the district told parents.