(Posted Aug. 17, 2020)
Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Shekinah Christian School in Plain City is prepared to start the school year fully in-person, with all staff and students on site five days a week. The first day for students is Aug. 19.
In a letter to parents, school leaders listed the core principles on which they built their plan for reopening. Among them was the following: “Having school in-person better promotes healthy relationships, discipleship and quality education.”
Some school districts in the area have opted for a 50/50 approach, splitting the student population in half for in-person instruction on certain days of the week and remote learning the other days.
Some school districts are giving families the choice between all in-person or all-remote. Other school districts have adopted variations of these plans.
Brice Kauffman, Shekinah’s school administrator, said Shekinah opted for in-person only for several reasons.
“We had very little interest (from parents) for a hybrid option and, quite frankly, we don’t have the resources to pull that off,” he said.
While the school has plans in place to provide temporary remote instruction to students who must stay home because they are sick or under quarantine, they are not offering an all-remote option for ongoing instruction.
“It’s not that we don’t have the tools, we just don’t have the tools to do it well,” Kauffman said, noting that it is primarily a matter of staffing numbers. “But if conditions would warrant, we realize that it might be necessary to go online.”
With all students and staff headed back to school, Shekinah leaders have monitored guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Governor Mike DeWine’s office, the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio High School Athletics Association, and Madison County Public Health to put in place safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Kauffman said the school will follow mandates from the governor and the local health department.
Among those mandates is that all students in grades K-12 wear masks. DeWine announced the change on Aug. 4; previously, his office highly recommended, but did not require, students in grades 3-12 to wear masks. Prior to the governor’s Aug. 4 announcement, Madison County Public Health already required masks for all students.
Kauffman issued a letter to parents on Aug. 7 informing them of the change in mask requirements. Originally, Shekinah was going to leave the decision to wear a mask up to parents, with some exceptions, such as group activities or hallway use between periods.
The new mask requirements extend to all staff and visitors to the building, as well. Medical exceptions apply.
Students who are exempted from wearing a cloth facial covering must wear a clear face shield.
Shekinah is implementing the following safety and sanitary precautions and procedures:
- use of more doors for student drop-off and pick-up to reduce the number of students congregating in the same area;
- temperature checks with a touchless thermometer for anyone entering the building;
- minimal use of shared spaces (for example, all students will eat lunch in their classroom);
- a janitor on-site throughout each school day for cleaning (the school anticipates a need for parent volunteer assistance with this);
- six feet of physical distance between students in classrooms where possible and three feet where it is not;
- smaller class sizes where possible;
- changes in foot traffic patterns with the help of new sidewalks and one-way flow in certain areas;
- hand sanitizer in classrooms and places where a large number of people pass throughout the day;
- no field trips for the first quarter; and
- modifications to music classes, with any instruction that involves singing taking place outdoors.
Kauffman said administrators are looking into securing a large tent to place on the school grounds to encourage teachers to get outside more often, for lunch breaks, student instruction, and the like.
Student orientation will take place online via Zoom on Aug. 17. Families who are new to the district can set appointments for Aug. 14 or Aug. 17 to meet teachers in-person.