HCCSC finalizes re-entry strategy amid pandemic

The first day of school at Horace Mann Elementary (pictured above in August 2019) along with the rest of HCCSC schools will look very different as the district implements new strategies to protect students and staff from COVID-19.

HCCSC approved their official 2020-21 re-entry plan which includes an enhanced version of their traditional teaching plan and a secondary virtual learning option as the district navigates challenges presented by COVID-19.

The Huntington County Community School Corporation board of trustees met on Monday night to approve the plan which includes enhanced cleaning procedures, guidelines for COVID home quarantine, health and safety protocols along with other information regarding the back-to-school approach.

The first student day will be Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Enhanced cleaning protocols include increased number of hand sanitizer stations in key locations, safe and effective cleaning products used on schedule throughout the day in all high-touch areas in the school/classroom and on the buses, and intense nightly cleaning.

Enhanced traditional plan

HCCSC will continue instruction as normal with enhanced safety precautions in place such as social distancing, face coverings, grouping students, increased frequency of cleaning of high touch areas and limited visitation to campuses.

HCCSC says wearing a mask is their number one defense against COVID-19 in order to keep schools open. The latest executive order from Governor Eric Holcomb signed Thursday requires students from third grade and up to wear face masks in school. Gov. Holcomb says face masks are also recommended for children age two through seven, though not required by the mandate.

Masks: All students and staff at HCCSC are required to have a mask with them at all times. Masks will be required in areas where social distancing is not an option (bus, hallways, clinics and certain classroom activities.)

Stay home if sick: Families must screen their children and keep them home if ill, according to HCCSC. Any sick children who come to school will be directed immediately upon arrival to the clinic assistant. Any students exhibiting symptoms will be required to be picked up.

Divided clinic locations: There will be an area for students displaying symptoms who are waiting to be picked up and another designated area for medication distribution.

Hand washing: Hand washing will be required throughout the day. Additional hand sanitizer will be made available in each classroom.

Water fountains: Students will be allowed to carry water bottles; however, drinking fountains will be unavailable.

Training: Professional development will be provided to all staff at the start of the school year on symptoms and screening measures.

Seating charts: Seating charts will be required on busses, in classrooms and in the cafeteria.

Transportation: Students will be required to wear face masks while on the bus. There will be assigned seating and siblings will be seated together whenever possible. Students will have one pick-up and one drop-off location and HCCSC will be unable to accept bus notes due to assigned seating, cohorting students and contact tracing.

No outside food deliveries: Deliveries will not be permitted into schools for students or staff during the school day.

Visitors: Outside groups will not be permitted in buildings until further notice.

Virtual Learning Option

The virtual learning option will be offered to K-12 students online as a non-traditional learning opportunity. Current and incoming HCCSC students will be able to participate in the virtual lessons, as well as students who reside outside of Huntington County.

Students who prefer a more flexible schedule will benefit from the virtual learning option, HCCSC says, as well as students who prefer learning in a virtual setting or who need the program for personal or family health reasons.

“Utilizing the virtual learning option, instruction will be provided by highly qualified HCCSC teachers that will create lessons that help each student reach his or her full potential,” HCCSC stated.

Through the virtual lessons, students will be given lessons and activities and participate in regular assessments as a way to measure academic growth.

Students who participate in the Virtual Learning Option and home-schooled students will not be allowed to participate in person for extracurricular activities.

COVID home quarantine procedures

Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 may return to school if at least 72 hours have passed since recovery (defined as a resolution of fever without the use of medications and improvements in respiratory symptoms) and 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Students who are COVID positive but asymptomatic may return to school 10 days from the positive test assuming no symptoms have developed.

Students who display symptoms of COVID-19 but do not have a test may return to school if at least 72 hours have passed since recovery (defined as a resolution of fever without the use of medications and improvements in respiratory symptoms) and 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Changes to the classroom and school environment

Back-to-school events: Due to social distancing restrictions, HCCSC will not host Back-to-School Nights or Open House events. Student events being held in person will require masks or social distancing with limited family participation in a highly structured environment.

Classrooms: Changes will be made to classrooms to create more personal space including reducing furniture, spacing out desks, and defining areas. Students will face the same direction in classrooms as much as possible. Students will be required to immediately report to classrooms upon entering the schools and will not be allowed to congregate in hallways or common areas. Sharing school supplies will also be minimized.

Cafeteria adjustments: No visitors will be allowed for lunch. Adjustments will be made to serving lines. Extra time between lunches will be added for additional cleaning. K-5 classes will sit together at lunch and seating charts will be used in cafeterias.

Physical education: Lessons and procedures will include steps that reduce the potential of cross-contamination. Students will not be required to dress for P.E. to minimize locker room interactions.

Schedules: Additional time will be built into schedules for band, choir, and related arts to clean in between classes and will encourage outside activities and social distancing to the greatest extent possible.

Additional information: The enrollment deadline for the Virtual Learning Option is Friday, July 24. No external field trips or convocations will be held until further notice, but on-campus Outdoor Learning Classrooms are permitted. Visitors and guests who must enter the school to pick up students will be limited to the main office and are required to wear a mask. Volunteers will not be scheduled until further notice. Facility usage for groups outside of HCCSC have been suspended.

HCCSC will also eliminate perfect attendance incentives for students for the 2020-2021 school year. The district acknowledged that there is some inherent risk present when children and staff occupy school corporation facilities.