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Wellsville prepares for life with COVID

Morning Journal/Stephanie Ujhelyi Several Columbiana County school districts, including Wellsville, contracted with a New Middletown-based concession trailer manufacturer to make these touchless handwashing stations at its school buildings. Wellsville bought three of these machines and have installed two of them at Wellsville High School and Garfield Elementary School. However, Superintendent Richard Bereschik said the measurement didn’t make it conducive to get it into Daw Middle School, so they have to spend the money to have Personal Protection make a custom sized unit. Above, a face shield rests on a table in Wellsville Superintendent Richard Bereschik’s office. Each staff member will receive two PPE clear face shields, while the district also purchased 10,000 disposable masks for students.

WELLSVILLE — A local school administrator admits that he is not sure what the future necessarily holds for the 2020-21 school year, but he is ready for anything.

Wellsville schools Superintendent Richard Bereschik spent days putting the final touches on a multiple page letter for parents about the district’s reset and restart protocol for the upcoming year, adapting to new developments in the COVID pandemic.

The first day of classes for students is Wednesday, Aug. 26, according to Bereschik. Staff starts earlier that week and will use the two inservice days for not only extra preparation but sanitation.

Some physical changes will be made to comply with federal, state and local health guidelines. For example, face coverings will be required for all students riding the bus and there will be a limit of two children per seat.

Because of those limitations, Bereschik said it may be necessary to add stops to help transport the Garfield and Daw school children.

However, youth better not strip off that mask yet.

Not only will youth be required to wear the face coverings in the building but also will be greeted by not only automatic temperature scanners at their school entry but also touchless handwashing stations.

The touchless handwashing stations have become a popular staple in the COVID fight for school district with East Liverpool and Columbiana also purchasing the devices in addition to Wellsville. Due to the narrow doors of Daw Middle School, Personal Protection, which is the New Middletown based manufacturer, has to custom design the unit for that school building, which they hope to be installed prior to classes starting.

Personal Protection was a Mahoning County-based manufacturer of concession trailers that had some free time with so many fairs and public events cancelling this year due to the pandemic, according to Bereschik.

Many procedural changes also will be obvious to participants.

“Arrival and dismissal procedures will be refined to avoid congestion in any one area,” he explained, adding that locker and recess use will be limited for safety.

Classrooms may be used in some cases for meals due to physical distancing requirements, and touchless serving lines, individual packaging of condiments and spacing in serving lines will be utilized.

For parents and guardians who choose their children not to attend classes in person, Bereschik said the virtual learning academy will be available through contacting the building principal.

While Wellsville’s $300,000 C.A.R.E.S. Act funds have been spent on items such as masks, face shields, the handwashing stations and automatic temperature scanners, officials have purchased hospital-grade disinfectant and wipes; hand sanitizer; electrostatic sprayers for buses, classrooms and hallways; water bottle fillers that will be utilized in lieu of water fountains; and clear desk guard dividers for tables throughout the building.

The temperature trigger point, Bereschik explained, is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Any staff member who tests 100 or above will be sent home, while individual students will go to an isolation area and their parents or guardians contacted to come get them.

Bereschik also said that the district is in the process of hiring two Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to work under the certified school nurse, so each building will have a nurse on site.

Since the district made it a priority to purchase all the needed Chromebooks earlier to enable virtual learning, he explained that are not suffering through waitlist and backorders for devices like many others.

Since they already have their hands on the Chromebooks, he foresees teachers spending some time during those inservice days familiarizing themselves with the format – especially he anticipates that each building will be on a different platform.

The superintendents have been meeting every Tuesday with Columbiana County Educational Service Center and Health Department officials, Bereschik explained; however the situation is very fluid and sometimes the requirements have changed by Thursday when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has his news conference.

“This is an everchanging landscape, and we will adapt and modify as time goes. We are as prepared as we can be,” the Wellsville superintendent said, adding that the high school football team plays its first game against Lisbon on Aug. 28 and he isn’t even sure yet if they will be permitted to have fans there.

“Our plans for a safe opening of school will be a work in progress as the year goes on, and we will strive to make this as safe as a working/educational environment as possible,” Bereschik concluded.

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