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Oak Ridge R-6 Schools release fall reopening plan

The Oak Ridge School District released its COVID-19 return to school plan for when school comes back on Aug. 26. The District currently plans to return to on-site learning for all students, while also putting risk mitigation strategies in place.

Students who have diagnosed medical conditions that make them more susceptible to getting COVID-19, and those who request alternate methods of instruction, will be provided “opportunities and other accommodations as appropriate and practical.” Staff members who are immunocompromised will also be provided accommodations.

According to the plan, students and staff members will not be required to wear facemasks, and the District will not provide masks for those who choose to wear one. Masks and other personal protective equipment will only be provided to students at the discretion of the school nurse.

Students will be guided to wash their hands multiple times per day, including before and after lunch. Students will be reminded to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. In addition, hand sanitizer will be located in each classroom and throughout the school.

Social distancing will be observed “to the extent possible” by students and staff, with the plan stating that social distancing will be more achievable in hallways, larger facilities and outdoor areas.

Desks will be spaced at least three feet apart, when feasible and students will be faced in the same direction. Assigned seating may be utilized to assist with contact tracing.

Faculty and staff will receive training to recognize symptoms associated with COVID-19, including training provided by the Missouri United School Insurance Council. Staff and families will also be educated on when children should stay home from school.

Parents, as well as staff members, are encouraged to self-screen for symptoms before coming to school. Students who display COVID-19 symptoms at school will be checked by the nurse and may be sent home. In addition, students with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home.

Attendance incentives have been removed and distance learning will be utilized for students who exhibit symptoms or who recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19.

The District will follow health department guidelines on when students can return to school. As of now, those guidelines state that students who tested positive for COVID-19 can return with a doctor’s approval or after 10 days without symptoms.

Students who are not tested by return after not having a fever for 24 hours without the use of medicine and when other symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath have improved.

Parents are strongly encouraged to drop students off and pick up students instead of using the bus. Students who ride the bus will be encourage to sit with their siblings and hand sanitizer will be available. The plan does not include mandatory masks for bus riders.

All K-12 bus riders will enter through the cafeteria and those dropped off will enter through the high school door. Preschool students will enter at the preschool entrance.

Preschool and elementary students through the sixth grade will remain with their class all day, including indoor recess. The only time these students may interact with other classrooms is during outdoor recess.

Lunch shifts may be staggered, and additional shifts may be added, to minimize the number of students gathered at any one time. All lunch tables will be utilized to spread out students and all lunches will be plated or boxed. Only preschool students will eat in their classroom.

Students will be encouraged to use refillable water bottles throughout the day instead of using traditional water fountains. Students may bring personal water bottles from home, but they must be clear plastic and clean.

The sharing of supplies, including facemasks and water bottles, will not be allowed. Shared objects and equipment used by more than one student must be sanitized between uses.

Visitors will be limited and must be approved prior to arrival and outside organizations may be limited or restricted in their use of school facilities for community events. When used, school facilities will be sanitized after community events and prior to school use.

Student activities and athletic events will be conducted “as usual” to the extent that they are permissible under governmental guidance. Parents may be required to sign a liability waiver for their students to participate in extracurricular activities.

The plan, which has been in development since March, states that it will be updated as state, local and federal authorities provide additional guidance. Families who feel like they must keep their children at home are asked to contact their building administrator this week.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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