Nothing makes sense when it comes to the coronavirus.
That is an area in which everyone attending the Gettysburg school board meeting could agree. Nearly an hour of the meeting on Oct. 12 was devoted to discussion on a back-to-school plan for students considered to be a “close contact.”
With cheers heard from a volleyball match being played in the school gym, the chorus room included members of the school board, staff, and parents who considered safe measures to keep kids in school during the pandemic. Superintendent Chip Sundberg addressed the meeting, offering some of the procedures being done by other schools. He said that he is “torn,” and can see both sides in which some parents are worried about their kids getting sick, and the importance of keeping them in school where he believed it is a safer environment for some, where they can have a better chance getting their work done.
There was discussion about the state’s Department of Health not being able to report to the school in a timely manner regarding close contacts. With the increased cases of the virus being reported statewide, the DOH is unable to keep up with the contact tracing, but Mr. Sundberg did say that the DOH does contact the school if a student was reported to be in close contact outside of school.
He went on to say that the school staff is doing a fantastic job with efforts to social distance, but some of the larger class sizes just don’t fit. There were also comments about curriculum in place that works with group learning, such as four students at a table and concern about trying to go away from a method of learning that works, and the challenges when the students at the table wear masks and are separated by plexiglass. There were questions about some styles of learning that may not fit in a Covid school environment. The teachers reported that they are all trying to adapt to different methods, but expressed concern about the students being able to get what they need from classes with the changes in the manner of instruction given.
Another concern is that kids are going to “get lost through all this.” Methods of reaching students who are out while quarantined were also discussed, but Mr. Sundberg reiterated that the kids are safer in school and they learn more when they are in the building and they do better completing their work. He added that while he wanted the kids in school, they are also being as safe as possible.
The difficulty associated with distance learning was repeated, and the importance of keeping students in the school was emphasized by the superintendent. He said that he felt that if the school has enough staff in the building to keep the doors open, they should try to do that.
There was some discussion given to sports and social distancing, and wearing masks while on the bus, but it was indicated that the extended exposure on a bus is not going to be worse than the athletes playing together. The SD High School Activities Association also has guidelines and recommendations regarding the coronavirus and students being able to return to activities which are followed by the schools.
School board president Brian Robbennolt told the meeting, “This isn’t easy, and the board fully expects to talk about it during every meeting.”
The minutes of the meeting are published on page 9, and are also available online at www.pottercountynews.com and www.sdpublicnotices.com.
Amended policy on back-to-school for coronavirus close contact students
If a student has close contact to a positive case and both the student and the positive case are wearing masks, the close contact may come to school. They will be required to wear masks at all times at school and at all practices and co-curricular and extra-curricular events for 14 days and get their temperature taken 3 times/day while at school.
This also includes return to play information to follow SDHSAA guidelines.