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Columbiana talks back to school plans

COLUMBIANA–Superintendent Donald Mook discussed 2021 back to school plans with the school board Tuesday.

A hybrid instruction with both online and in-person learning will be available to students who have health concerns or live with family members with health conditions.

“We are going to do our best to accommodate them with an asynchronous option for online learning,” Mook said.

Concerns regarding House Bill 110 may complicate the at-home learning process. Mook is waiting to clarify details with state education officials.

The district is using multiple devices to ensure student safety including hand sanitizing stations along with electro-static sprayers and anti-microbial foggers in all three buildings and the bus fleet. The district also invested $15,000 in hand washing stations throughout all buildings.

Administrative staff will continue to communicate between parents, nursing staff and health agencies.

“We have several things we have learned from last year that I don’t think we should forget real soon,” Mook said.

One-way hallways and plastic dividers won’t make a comeback unless mandated. Mook described them as mostly ineffective stating it is important to be flexible. Students will resume using lockers this fall.

The process for quarantine and isolation will change. Isolation will only occur when a doctor assesses symptoms in coordination with administering a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. According to the Cleveland Clinic, PCR tests are the most accurate method available to detect Covid.

State health officials will take responsibility assessing quarantines and isolations. Doctors will no longer quarantine or isolate patients based on exposure and symptoms alone.

“Now your doctor has to say you have symptoms and we are going to give you a PCR test to say you have Covid,” Mook said.

Eighty kids were quarantined last year.

Mook emphasized recommendations and mandates are constantly changing. He referred to coordinating methods to mitigate the virus as creating a “Swiss cheese effect,” describing each step as another layer used to protect students.

Masks will continue to be used on buses until the current mandate requiring masks on public transportation ends in September.

Board Vice President Scott Caron questioned the protocols regarding masks for visitors.

Mook pointed out some staff members are not vaccinated, saying he believes asking visitors to wear masks should be approached with reason.

“I think you have to apply uniformly anything that you decide across everybody that enters into your facilities,” Mook said.

District parent Erin Benner of Salem said she felt requiring visitors to wear a mask was discriminatory.

“That is putting me in a separate room and discriminating against me,” Benner said.

“No, I’m telling you to wear a mask,” Caron said.

Laurie Spencer of New Waterford, who has grandchildren attending the district, said she believes masks are more harmful to students than the flu.

Spencer said that she has done research and believes masks are linked to acne, oxygen deprivation, bacterial pneumonia, facial deformities and germophobia among other things.

Board members thanked both guests for expressing their concerns. They emphasized the great accomplishments of district staff to keep students learning in-person.

“We were in-person already; we were doing what it took to support this community,” said Mook. “Our administerial staff was dedicated to getting the job done for this community and they really need to be applauded for their effort last year and getting it done.”

“We are here to protect our children,” said Caron.

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