West Jeff Schools will return to in-person only, masks optional

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(Posted June 15, 2021)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

When classes resume for Jefferson Local students later this summer, it will be under a full, in-person instruction and continuity-of-service plan recently approved by the school board.

“We will not have remote instruction this year. It will all be in-person,” said Superintendent William Mullett during the June 14 board meeting.

Board President Melissa Adams said she is very happy to have the district back to more normal operations without a mask requirement, which she said was a struggle during the 2020-21 school year.

“I’m very happy to see masks are optional,” she said.

The document, as approved by the board, is a tool for the community to use in learning about the district’s plans for the 2021-22 school year.

It also affords the district the opportunity to receive funding from the federal government to assist in the plan’s implementation which is subject to modification based on changing circumstances.

According to the plan, the school district will follow Madison County Public Health’s guidelines and recommendations to maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and staff.

Facial coverings are now optional in all areas of the Norwood and middle/high school campuses. However, unvaccinated people over the age of 12 and children between the ages of 2 and 11 are encouraged to wear facial coverings while indoors.

A fully vaccinated person does not have to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19 if they are symptom-free, but unvaccinated people must quarantine for no less than 10 days if exposed to the virus.

Jefferson Local will continue to coordinate with the health department to provide vaccinations to staff and students. Safety protocols for social distancing regarding classroom occupancy will be implemented.

According to the plan, “The district will take a common-sense approach in regards to scheduling large group gatherings with consideration given to the event, logistics and current rate of infection in the community.”

Hand sanitizer will remain abundantly available, as will masks and rapid COVID-19 tests to those individuals who would like or need them.

The district developed summer lessons to help bridge the learning gap caused by the pandemic and to reduce the summer learning gap and will continue the one-to-one Chromebook program for each student.

Two students per seat will be allowed on buses, and siblings/children from the same household will be seated together. Contract tracing protocols apply if a student tests positive after riding the school bus.

The plan will be reviewed no less than every six months with the first review occurring in late November/early December 2021. The plan will be updated as needed through Sept. 30, 2024, as needs change in the district.

The school board also approved raising the substitute bus driver pay to $17 per hour and defined the position as on an as-needed basis for regular routes, supplemental routes, and field trips.

“Seventeen dollars seems to be a pretty fair wage for a sub driver,” said Bob Hiss, director of facilities and transportation.

Hiss researched the substitute bus driver pay scales of surrounding districts before making his recommendation.

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