HPC looks to the fall, reopening

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■ Board assesses options planning for in-person classes

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The High Plains Board of Education met in Clarks Monday to discuss the upcoming school year amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus.

Board members and administrators looked at a number of options for resolutions that could be accepted for the 2020/21 academic year.

“We have a blueprint for a tiered approach if in green, yellow or red,” Supt. Brian Tonniges explained. “The committee that was put together consists of an array of all staff members. We’ve gone through the protocol and called the local health departments to get feedback and answer questions.”

Due to the district’s location, HPC will be working with both Four Corner’s Health Department and Central District Health Department on any pending changes and recommendations.

At the current time, HPC is planning on resuming in-person classes in the fall. Tonniges noted that they want children to be in the classroom to learn.

“If kids aren’t in school it’s stress on the family,” he said. “Plus there’s the overall stress of educating a child at home.”

He voiced that the community’s low infection rate, along with erring on the side of caution, would give them the opportunity to bring some normalcy to people’s lives.

The board acknowledged that social distancing and bussing could pose a potential issue as the busses that travel between schools are relatively full. They also noted that the school can’t control students outside of school and that they are trusting them to be cautious and safe.

In order to help parents with the upcoming changes, the board reviewed a document to send out that outlines various scenarios that included in session, short-term closure, hybrid classes and remote learning.

A large point of discussion centered around whether or not masks would be mandatory or voluntary for staff and students.

“We had a conversation about staff wearing masks and I think the majority of staff will wear a mask even if it’s not required,” Tonniges noted. “The health departments are all unified on the benefits of wearing a mask. It helps if someone tests positive with contact tracing. Quarantine will be determined on if everyone was wearing a mask.”

Daily screening

Another layer of protection will be added by screening students before they board their bus. Tonniges voiced that if a child has a temperature of 100.4 or higher that they will not be allowed on the bus.

“If students are ill we hope that the parents will let the school know,” he said. “If it’s something like allergies the doctor can clear them for school. In the winter time with the flu we can’t be doctors. If people are sick they need to stay home.”

Other additions to help fight the spread of the virus include social distancing, promoting healthy hygiene, intensified cleaning and the removal of the salad bar in the cafeteria.

Students will also be assigned seats for transportation with siblings assigned together. Tonniges explained that this will help with contact tracing should a student test positive.

It was acknowledged that the board has the authority to require all teachers, staff and volunteers to wear masks unless the activity is unsafe or impossible with a mask on.

When it comes to students, the board looked at three options. Those included required masks, having an opt out system and having masks be voluntary.

The board then discussed the pros and cons of each option with many favoring the voluntary system for students. The final resolution will be presented and adopted during the August board meeting.

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