Back to every day school for Hamilton students

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Hamilton Local Schools is re-opening schools to all-day, every day instruction beginning March 22, which is the beginning of the final quarter of the 2020-21 school year and just a week before spring break.

Students will need to mask up, follow all safety protocols and maintain a three-foot distance from each other as much as possible. The only exception is in the cafeteria where social distancing is still six feet because masks are removed on a regular basis.

Students riding the bus are required to wear a mask, with the exception of pre-school children. All buses will be wiped down between each route, fogged after all morning and afternoon routes are complete and parents are encouraged to transport their child to school whenever possible.

According to district officials, and to the greatest extent possible, students will be spaced at least three feet apart. Frequent handwashing and sanitizing are encouraged throughout the day and extensive cleaning will take place after each school day. The district is examining the use of large areas, such as gyms and outdoor spaces, to increase seating options for lunch and will continue case investigation and contract tracing of every student and staff case.

“Why not wait until next year?” asked Superintendent Mark Tyler during a March 9 video message to the Hamilton community. “Obviously, we have the ability to modify quarantine, but this gives us back 22 days of in-person instruction, which is significant.”

Tyler said administrators and staff will have an opportunity to view the plan in action for a solid week, recess for spring break and have the option to make adjustments if there any issues that need to be addressed before returning to the classroom.

“Spring break feels like the last significant hurdle,” said Tyler. “It is an opportunity for congregate settings and an opportunity to spread the virus.”

In looking at the numbers, Tyler said approximately 75 percent of students will be in buildings during the every day model, but school capacity is able to tolerate a much higher percentage.

“With 75 percent, we can maintain three feet in our classrooms,” said Tyler. “Lunch was the other big question. You take your mask off when you eat so you have to be at six feet. That was a little bit of a challenge for us. We got creative with some spacing. We’re using gymnasiums and others, but we’re going to be able to spread out six feet.”

Tyler lauded the Hamilton community for its action and response during the COVID-19 outbreak and he is asking for everyone to continue those practices because the pandemic is not yet over.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done and we’re going to have to be very vigilant,” said Tyler, who said he has the option to return to the hybrid model if the situation gets worse. “The goal obviously is to stay in the everyday model for the remainder of the school year and we need your help to do that.”

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