On the evening of July 9, the Lincoln County School Board held a special meeting to receive a presentation on the plan that has been developed for the reopening of schools next month.
The meeting was opened with thanks from the board for the diligent work that went into the development of the plan, which is a crucial step in ensuring that the children of Lincoln County receive a quality education in the coming year. There was a disclaimer that, because of the nature of the challenges that COVID-19 presents, the approaching school year and the contingencies of the plan cannot be expected to "go flawlessly," but it was emphasized by Superintendent Dr. Bill Heath that this plan is "comprehensive -- the culmination of at least six weeks of work," reassuring those present of the plan's thoroughness and consideration.
The plan, which "prioritizes health and safety," has its main goal in attempting to approximate the normality of school to the best that can be achieved.
Parents will be offered three options for their children's schooling:
1. In-person schooling, as in any other year (with additional safety measures and protocols).
2. Virtually schooling via your child's institution -- which is to say that a student would still be instructed by the teacher they would have had, had their parent elected the in-person option.
3. Virtual schooling via the Lincoln Central Academy virtual school, which was established in the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The safety protocols associated with option one are influenced by the state and local health guidelines, as well as the decisions made by schools in the surrounding districts. Some of the measures that can be expected are the promotion of hand-washing, the presence of hand-sanitizer, temperature-checks, and time taken to sanitize desks in between classes.
Regarding the virtual options, Heath made clear that not only will the emphasis of virtual education be the learning of new material, but also that attendance will be enforced via daily student engagement with said material. Failure to fulfill the expectation of attendance will result in the same intervention and penalties associated with physical truancy.
Significantly, the exact details of option one are subject to change relative to the proliferation of COVID-19 throughout Lincoln County, as measured by the three stages of severity included as a metric within the plan. During stage one, whose threshold is 0.5% of the county (172 active cases), school will operate as written above. During stage two, which would require the infected population to be between 0.5% and 1% of the county (173-343 active cases), the students will be split into two groups of attendance -- half will attend on Monday and Tuesday; half will attend on Thursday and Friday; and Wednesday will be used for cleaning the facility. During stage three, which would occur once the percentage of actively infected citizens passes 1% (344 active cases), all students will be mandated to attend school virtually. Heath clarified that the can be elevated manually by the school system in the case of a crisis -- the percentage thresholds are simply the points at which the stage is automatically raised.
Heath disclaimed that those who want to attend school virtually from the beginning of the semester will need to be able to access the internet in some manner, whether that be from their home or via some publicly accessible Wi-Fi hot-spot. However, for the more dire possibilities that arise in the higher stages of COVID-19 severity, the school system will be able to provide schoolwork via SD card.
Another specific point of emphasis was the protocols for transporting students to and from school. "We want to encourage parents to check for symptoms," Heath said, going on to explain that the parents should be the first line of defense in ensuring that a child who may have COVID-19 does not enter an LCS facility. Beyond the parents, students will have their temperatures checked as they board the buses, and those students with fevers or otherwise exhibiting symptoms will either be returned to their parents or equipped with a mask and placed on the front seat of the bus if the parents are not present at the bus-stop. In the latter case, the student will be watched over until a parent or guardian can retrieve them.
Additionally, the meals provided by the school system will continue at all stages of the plan. Those physically attending will eat under a set of guidelines designed to enforce safety, and roadside pickup will be available for those schooling virtually.
The meeting ended optimistically, with the board members unanimously approving the plan and expressing thanks for all those who worked on it as they looked forward to the coming semester.