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Safety is priority as Salem schools work on reopening plan

SALEM — Salem school officials on Friday released the details parents want to know about the Sept. 8 restart of their children’s education, covering everything from facial coverings and safety measures to recess and lunch.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to keep students and staff safe based on the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, local and state health departments and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Superintendent Sean Kirkland said.

Families in Salem were already asked their option preference for learning: Option A for in-person and Option B for remote learning. Many responded, but quite a few did not and school officials are trying to reach those families to find out which direction they’re choosing.

A copy of the common reopening agreement with Columbiana County schools is available on the school website at salemquakers.k12.oh.us, along with frequently asked questions for Option A in-person learning and Option B remote learning. Also posted are logistical details for each building, for Southeast, Reilly and Buckeye. The building details for the junior high and high school will be posted Monday. There’s also a link to the reports from the school’s Facebook page.

Kirkland said they tried to present the return to school plans for each building in an easy-to-read format, addressing point-by-point how they’ll handle arrival to buildings, arrival to classroom, hallways and stairs, restroom breaks, water fountains, lunch, recess, art, music, gym and library, and dismissal. Students who ride the bus will wear face coverings, with two students in each seat.

“Safety is our number one concern,” he said, but also added that functioning as normal as possible

is also important to school staff.

Kirkland explained that by providing two options, an estimated 18 to 20 percent of the students will choose remote learning, allowing for less students in the classrooms and more room for social distancing. Rooms will be set up for 20 desks, with an estimated 16 students in each room, and one teacher.

In grades K-6, the same teacher will teach all subjects in a classroom. Previously there was team teaching, but this way, it limits exposure both for the teacher and the students.

He used first grade as an example. Say there’s 140 kids and six teachers. Add in the Title teacher and that makes seven teachers. They’ll divide that up and have 20 kids per classroom, making the numbers more manageable. Let’s say 28 kids decide to choose remote learning. The most vulnerable teacher, someone who may have a higher risk due to their health, can teach those students from an empty classroom, mitigating their risk.

He also said with this model, if they have to switch to all remote learning for all students, each teacher will continue with the students they started with, but they’ll teach from their classroom, not from their home, working less hours and including time for office hours during the school day.

The district purchased another 500-plus Chromebook computers so that every student, from kindergarten on up, will have one.

For the seventh and eighth graders, they’ll still have different teachers for the different subjects and change classes. For junior high students who choose remote learning, they’ll log on daily with their teacher. Teachers in the junior high will have a dedicated period for their online learners.

High school students who choose remote learning will be part of Quaker Tech and use the Fuel Ed curriculum to earn credits toward graduation, but won’t have access to all the courses available in the building. Kirkland said the online courses will be rigorous and full-semester courses.

There’s still recess and lunch, although they may look a little different, and while the weather is nice, there may be some lessons outside.

For safety measures, all the buildings will be equipped with thermal image touchless temperature stations to take the temperatures of every student and staff member entering. Perry township trustees donated some of their CARES Act funding for the purchase.

Touchless faucets have been installed in all sinks and water fountains have been switched to bottle-filling fountains.

The district already had four electro static guns for sanitizing and purchased three more. The district also purchased 50 pump sprayers for disinfecting buses. Bottles of disinfectant will be in each classroom along with hand sanitizing stations in each classroom and on each bus.

Buses will load from back to front and unload from front to back and be sprayed down with disinfectant after every run. Classrooms will be sprayed down between classes, too.

Kirkland said he’s ok with the governor’s order for all students K-12 to wear face coverings in school, but he also understands how hard that may be for the younger students, so mask breaks will be provided throughout the day. He suggested parents start getting the students used to wearing a face covering now for short periods in preparation for school. Every student will receive a face shield and will be expected to have masks.

The frequently asked questions reports go into great detail about how sickness and other situations will be handled. This year, there will be no open houses for the schools.

Kirkland urged parents to read the FAQs and building logistic reports, stressing that if parents have questions, they just need to call.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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