Restarting School – A work in progress
The fact that there are challenges of restarting school this year is no secret. But while schedules, classroom sizes, and the methods/process for bringing about a quality student experience are all being discussed, one of the things we felt extremely important to point out are the challenges our district and staff will face to prepare for the requirements as dictated by the Department of Public Health. Preparing staff, students and community for the detail involved in making sure the district is keeping students and staff safe is no easy task, nor will it be inexpensive.
During the June 10th school board study session, all of the work staff is doing around preparing a model for restart was reviewed with the board by the staff members who have been involved.
The discussion on how the district would make sure students would be entering school buildings safely (beginning at 1:06 on the video) is probably something few of us have given much thought. But there does need to be a process and there is no room for error. The combined logistics while meeting health department requirements are more complicated than many of us could imagine, yet staff’s objective is to make it look simple and seamless – which will require a great deal of training and detail on the backside and behind the scenes.
Julie Wilken, Director of Health Services for the district reviewed how the district is planning to tackle that issue:
- The objective is to make this process quick and efficient, yet make it look simple and seamless. Getting the process down as quickly as possible – so students are entering the school building in an acceptable yet minimal amount of time (15-20 minutes.)
- This will require staff to be well trained in advance so they are comfortable doing symptom screening which will increase proficiency with students entering the building.
- Making sure school nurses are there to support staff for challenges such as thermometer troubleshooting and helping staff to address issues while having the “experts” with them to troubleshoot.
- Matching the same staff member(s) with the same students every day is being considered to help in checking for other symptoms (in addition to just thermometer screening), because they will grow to know the students and see any other changes not detected with a temperature reading.
District has ordered 2,000 thermometers, and has budgeted for $3.5 Million on PPE supplies
Training on PPE will be required –
- Utilizing a lot of different types of PPE and making sure all staff know how to use the PPE and know when it’s important to utilize certain parts of the PPE
What happens when staff encounters a COVID case? Staff will have to be prepared to isolate and mitigate the transmission further as quickly as possible.
- Staff will need to know the next step and follow procedures around how to remove students (or staff) from the building quickly.
- Be able to contact-trace back to their cohorts – who were they in contact with as they became symptomatic
Addressing the Stigma of being identified with COVID –
- Important to create a sense of privacy
- Isolate quickly
- Make them feel comfortable
- Make sure they feel supported and support the family
Following up on positive cases and quarantining –
Quarantining – will require a lot of support by the district
- Do not want staff and students home for 14 days without support from the district
- The district will need to make sure they have resources to be tested appropriately
- And then follow up on when and how they will be able to come back to school
What about transportation?
- First task is to determine how many bus riders the district will have this year. Last year there were approximately 18,000 students who rode the bus.
- The district will need to follow public health standards – which currently limits each bus to 14-15 students.
- To put that into context, a route that would under normal circumstances have 60-65 riders on one bus will now require 4 buses to accommodate the same route.
The district expects to have a publication ready to share with the community (students and their families) July 8 or shortly after. They hope to be able to provide families with information beforehand, as well to help them make decisions around being able to commit to returning to school.
Start dates being discussed are Aug 18 (as originally on calendar) or Aug 24 (as per preference indicated by 41% of participants in survey) to be determined June 17.
As the state’s second largest school district, all eyes will be on Jeffco as they put this plan forward. Patience, understanding and cooperation by everyone involved will help to make this process a safe and efficient one for all of its 86,000 students and 14,000 employees.