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Most Palestine parents want school doors open

EAST PALESTINE — While schools around the country are doing their best to apply the recommendations from Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health, each district will ultimately have the final say as to what school will look like in the fall. Superintendent Chris Neifer presented the district’s plan to the school board at Monday’s meeting.

The district’s official plan won’t be released until the last week in July, but they are working with a three-tier system, which has plans for different school scenarios.

“Obviously things change on a daily basis,” Neifer said. “Will things change after we release the plan? It’s very possible. It’s designed in such a way that we’re prepared for those things. We just want to make sure everything is complete.”

The first tier is having all students and staff back to school with social distancing and health and safety protocols. The second tier is a blended learning plan where students would come to school two days per week and would be remote learning the rest of the week. The third tier is a remote learning plan where all students are at home engaged in virtual learning. Neifer said it would be similar to last spring, but there would be a more defined schedule and clearer expectations.

“I want to make sure that it’s clear no matter what tier we’re in, there is an option for students to be online,” Neifer said. “So, if the parents aren’t ready to bring their kids back to school yet, we have that option for everyone.”

Neifer said they have also implemented plans for health concerns. First, there are new clinics in each of the school buildings, and the general wellness clinics are separate from the clinics addressing COVID-19. There will also be an additional nurse aide on staff at each building. Face coverings will be mandatory for all staff and face coverings are highly recommended for all. Temperatures will be checked at entrances of the schools.

The district also has plans set in place to address social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfecting the buildings.

In order to receive public input on reopening strategies, a parent survey was sent out, and 449 students were represented in the results.

“As we get to the point where we’ll be releasing our school plan here in a couple weeks, I want make sure people understand that we’re talking feedback into account,” Neifer said.

While 74 percent of participants said they would have their child return to a school building in the fall, just 3 percent said they wouldn’t. Meanwhile, 23 percent of parents said they are undecided.

As childcare is an important topic for younger students, 33 percent of parents said they have a plan for childcare if the school decides to take a blended approach, and 24 percent said they don’t have a plan.

“A few of the school districts have already said that if nothing changes, they’ll be all in,” Neifer said. “We’re in the same place. If nothing changes, that’s probably what we’re looking at right this minute. That’s all based on data. If that changes, we are ready and prepared to change on a dime.”

The district will continue to pivot as new information surfaces, but as of right now, they will release the plan in the last week of July. The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 3.

slendak@mojonews.com

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