By Drew Bergman
Whether online or in the classroom, the 2020 school year will begin in three weeks’ time. Superintendents, administrators, counselors, teachers, and support staff have been at work preparing for that day.
While much of the focus has been placed on digital technologies and online educational tools for remote learning, educators have also been stockpiling physical supplies to make schools the cleanest and safest they can possibly be.
Steve Burton, the Maintenance and Transportation Director for Adair County Schools, took time out from his preparations last Friday to have a show and tell about the supplies that have been arriving at Greensburg Street and how educators will make use of them.
Social distancing guidelines have set tighter limits on student spacing, and even student orientation in a classroom. “Before at our schools we may have three or four sitting at a table spread throughout the classroom. As of right now that’s not going to be acceptable,” Mr. Burton said. In order for it to be acceptable for children to remove their masks they will have to be six feet apart and facing in the same direction.
ACS are replacing those tables with individual desks. “We got a shipment in [last week] of 1,200 chairs and we have a shipment coming in of 1,600 desks and all that is being utilized to make sure that we have appropriate social distancing inside our classrooms.”
Inside the classrooms, teachers will be equipped with masks and personal sanitizer solution. During last Friday’s visit there were buckets of sanitizer totaling 100 gallons, which represented less than a seventh of the total volume already ordered.
“Every teacher is going to have a 16-ounce spray bottle every day,” Mr. Burton said. “This is also going on our busses. Every bus driver is going to have a couple bottles. Every kid is going to have to be sprayed with hand sanitizer as they get on and as they get off the bus.”
Spraying the children’s hands with sanitizer will not be the only cleaning going on with the Adair school bus fleet. Every bus is going to be equipped with a garden sprayer which will be filled with a different cleaner meant for bus surfaces instead of skin. “That sanitizer is designed for the surfaces of the bus,” Mr. Burton said. “It won’t weaken any of the seatbelts or damage any of the seats it’s not harmful to the students.”
The busses will be sprayed down between each route and in the event that a driver has multiple routes in the morning or afternoon, they will have to drive a different bus for each run.
Drivers and monitors will be going through a special round of bus training beginning next week. Mr. Burton explained that “every bus is going to have its regular manifest; they are also going to have a binder for seating arrangements because every kid has to have an assigned seat this year to help with contact tracing.”
Monitors will take each child’s temperature before they get on the bus just as coaches have been checking temperatures of each of their players before each workout. Busses will be loaded back to front and unloaded front to back to help limit cross-contact between the students.
“If there is a child with a 100.5 temperature or higher, they will be placed in the first seat,” Mr. Burton said. “We’re going to leave that empty and the child will be taken directly to the nurse upon arriving at school where they will follow up.”
Children riding busses without monitors will have their temperatures taken as soon as they step off the bus at school. As many precautions as schools can take, Adair’s parents will play a key role in helping to limit any COVID spread.
“The first line of defense is for parents to check if their child has a cough or a temperature, are they showing other symptoms,” said Mr. Burton. “It’s going to take us all. The scariest thing is that there is no road map. It affects everybody different. One child may have a temperature, one may not, another may have a cough.”
Once inside the school, students will see other new editions such as, plastic shields at the main desks and yellow spacing stickers on the floor. “We’re following all the steps we should take and following all the guidelines to lead, guide, and direct us,” Mr. Burton said. “This is not the time to go rogue.”
The needful spacing and facing will not be limited to the classrooms and busses and hallways as each school is currently exploring options for extending their lunch seating outside of the cafeteria and into the gyms.
“[Lunch] is going to be different at each individual school, but I think most schools will be utilizing their cafeteria and their gym to try to meet the guidelines for social distancing, but also trying to add a little normalcy for the school day.”
With each new day Adair and the state inches closer to the start of class and all that remains to be done is for people to do their best to help control the spread of COVID-19. “We’re ready to go, we’re getting everything in and by August 24th everything will be up and ready to rock if things don’t change before then,” Mr. Burton said. “And they may do.”