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Saxony Lutheran announces back-to-school COVID-19 plan

Saxony Lutheran High School has released its back-to-school plan, with three levels of changes based on how severe the local spread of COVID-19 is. The lowest level (green) is for low to no spread at Saxony, while the highest level (red) is for substantial spread in the community.

Saxony Lutheran Principal Mark Ruark said the plan was made to be fluid as the COVID-19 situation changes. “We wanted to come up with a plan that was simple, easy to understand and gave clear guidelines on when we would take certain steps,” Ruark said.

The green level consists of the basic precautions, with the yellow level representing additional steps needed to combat COVID-19 cases at the school. The red level indicates that the level of COVID-19 cases between Saxony students, staff and their family members is high enough to temporarily close the school and institute distance learning.

Ruark, who credits the three-level plan to new assistant principal Missy Adams, said the school’s goal is to teach face-to-face throughout the school year. “It’s going to be inconvenient to wear masks and do things of that nature, but we feel like the inconvenience is worth it if we’re able to stay in school and continue face-to-face learning,” he said.

At the green level, the district will follow social distancing guidelines for all large group gatherings, including chapel and assemblies, and maximize distancing in classrooms. Students will have assigned seating in all classrooms, and larger spaces including the gymnasium and outdoors will be used for social distancing.

Signage will be posted around the school on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, and screening protocols for students and staff members will be implemented. A deep clean of the school will be made prior to school starting, and classrooms and high touch surfaces will be cleaned every day once school starts.

Student, staff and visitors will have their temperature taken upon arrival and after school before extra-curricular activities. Students will be isolated and sent home if their internal temperature is confirmed to be 100.4 degrees or higher.

Students will be required to wash their hands before and after lunch, and touchless water bottle filters will be available. Hand sanitizer will also be provided in classrooms, hallways and common areas.

Students and staff will be encouraged to wear face masks or coverings when working with others and in the hallways during passing times. The plan states that masks will be mandatory for cafeteria staff and for staff members while there is a face covering order in place.

While Saxony Lutheran plans on teaching face-to-face, the plan includes preparing for a potential distance learning in the future by increasing the current blended learning and allowing students at home temporarily due to illness or quarantine to complete their coursework virtually.

At the yellow level, the school will provide additional time for passing time, minimize the number of students in any given hallway at one time, and mark certain hallways and doors as one-way.

The school will also consider the use of cloth face coverings for staff and students “to the greatest extent practicable” and will provide teachers additional personal protective equipment, including gloves. Large group gatherings would be staggered and the number of people allowed in the building for events will be limited.

Hybrid instructional models may be put in place. This could include alternating days of instruction, alternating weeks of instruction, half days or a block schedule.

During a red alert, the school will close and a distance-learning plan will be implemented. Only essential staff will report in-person to carry out necessary functions. In addition, no extracurricular activities or events would take place if the school closed.

“We know it’s all fluid and it can all change at any time, but we feel good that we have a plan in place that will keep kids, staff and their families safe,” Ruark said. “We will adjust as we have to.”

Saxony Lutheran is also changing its school calendar to better match the schedules of the Jackson and Cape Girardeau public school districts. The new calendar is six days shorter than the previous year, with a total of 168 student attendance days.

The school is also extending the school day by 10 minutes, with students to be dismissed at 2:55 p.m. Ruark said the school day changes, which adds two minutes to each class, was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, but allows students to have more instructional time this year despite cutting six days from the calendar.

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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