With schools resuming in a few weeks, we chatted with Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton about plans, precautions and what could cause schools to close down.
Q: How will students enter and exit the building, and how often will touch points (such as door handles) be cleaned?
A: Our Return to School Plan calls for all high-touch surfaces to be cleaned every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
Q: Are you temperature-checking and symptom-checking staff and students daily?
A: Staff will self-check for symptoms every day utilizing a protocol that has been approved by the Ottawa County Department of Health. This includes temperature and other common symptoms of COVID-19. Parents are required to screen their children every morning before school utilizing a very similar, approved process. In the event that either a staff member or student has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, he or she would not be allowed to report to school that day.
Q: What are the plans for bus transportation?
A: We will continue to provide transportation to and from school each day, but it will look very different. My first comment with regard to that is simply to encourage parents who can do so to transport their children to school. For those parents who cannot do so, their children will be required to wear a mask while on the bus, use hand sanitizer before boarding and to sit in an assigned seat. We will sit children from the same family together and space children to the fullest extent possible. Buses will be disinfected before and after each run.
Q: If a teacher, staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19, what happens next?
A: If a staff member or student were to test positive, he or she would be placed in isolation by the health department. The health department would then take over the decision-making relative to when that individual could return to school, but it would be a minimum of 10 days since symptoms first appeared and 24 hours without a fever. In addition, the health department would investigate close contacts of the positive case and identify who else may have been infected. These “close contacts” would be placed in quarantine for 14 days. We’ll rely heavily on the health department for these decisions and protocols.
Q: What if a staff member reports potential COVID-19 exposure?
A: Again, the health department will investigate and make a facts-based decision on next steps, which may include quarantine or a return to school.
Q: How often will bathrooms and playground equipment be sanitized?
A: Bathrooms will be sanitized every four hours and playground equipment daily, as per the recommendations of the Return to School Roadmap.
Q: What is the policy for children/staff using the restrooms?
A: We will have a protocol for bathroom use that limits occupancy and requires general hygiene.
Q: Can students or staff leave their seats during the day?
A: Of course! We will have our students moving around frequently during the school day, including outdoor recess, mask breaks outdoors and teaching outdoors to name just a few examples. We want school to continue to be a fun experience for our students, and that has never been more important than it is now.
Q: How far apart will desks be?
A: Students will be distanced as far apart as our spaces allow and generally between 3 and 6 feet.
Q: Is there a percentage of students/staff that potentially test positive for COVID-19 that triggers 100 percent online learning?
A: We will review the number of students and staff absent from school, as well as the reasons why, on a daily basis. If our data, along with regional trend data from the health department, suggests that there is localized spread of COVID-19 and that our schools are playing a role in that spread, we will move to remote learning. It is possible that we will be in and out of remote learning a few times this school year. If student, staff and community safety is at stake, we won’t hesitate to make that move.
Q: Is funding tied to in-person schooling?
A: We will capture enrollment and funding for students enrolled for face-to-face and in online programming.
Q: What are the biggest challenges to online learning?
A: Building a relationship between the teacher and student, and from student to student. Our staff members are experts at this and our success has always been directly linked to their ability to build healthy, productive relationships with students.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: We all need to do our part to keep our students, staff and community safe. For our parents, I’d ask that they have their children build stamina with wearing a mask, teach them the routines of hygiene and encourage them, strongly, to follow school rules relative to safety. Working together, we can be successful in this.