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Marion school board OKs reopening plans

Staff writer

Marion school board members took aim at a moving target Monday night, as they approved plans to reopen schools this fall.

“What is the case today may not be the case tomorrow, it may not be the case by 9 p.m.,” superintendent Aaron Homburg said.

“Things are changing so rapidly, we reserve the right to amend it based on operation needs.

“I think that’s the first thing we need to understand. We put this out, this is our plan. But before we get kids in school on Sept. 9, it could be different.”

Reopening school during a pandemic was a challenge never faced by any group of educators in history, Homburg said.

“There are going to be growing pains,” he said. “But we have to understand what we’re going to do is try to be the best for staff and students.”

Some plans to ensure district-wide student safety include:

  • Bus drivers will wear masks for student safety and will take the temperature of every student who gets on the bus. Buses will be cleaned every time they return to the bus barn.
  • Students will check in at one of nine kiosks for a temperature check. The kiosks have with facial-recognition technology that will recognize students, even if they have masks on, he said.

Justin Wasmuth, Marion Elementary school principal said students who ride the bus and already have had their temperatures checked will use the back entrance.

Grab-and-go breakfasts will be available to students who will spread out in the elementary school’s gym.

Kindergarten through grade five will have lunch in their classrooms, which will save time for music or physical education.

Staff members will offer students regular breaks from classrooms and masks, he said.

“We are planning on trying to do as much outside as possible,” he said. “At recess, the plan is to take them off.”

Missy Stubenhofer, principal of Marion Middle School, said staff members were debating whether to use lockers and backpacks.

“I know a lot of schools are saying no lockers,” she said. “If you’ve ever seen a tiny little sixth-grader who turns into a tiny little eighth-grader trying to carry their social studies and science book, I have some real concerns about that.”

The middle school has plenty of lockers available to students, she said.

Students will be encouraged to “stay to the right” when transitioning between classes.

Middle schoolers also will have classes with the same group of students to allow for easier contact tracing.

Staff of the middle school have discussed physical education and whether to have students shower.

“Physical distancing is part of the problem, along with the sharing of your towel on someone else’s rear end when you are snapping them. That’s also a problem,” she said, adding the issue was still up for debate.

“The kids will love it if we tell them ‘No, we’re not going to shower,’ but then we will have to buy some extra deodorant,” she said.

Students will take Chromebooks home with them, she said.

“If we’re ever going to get to a point where we’re not going to have school tomorrow, we’ve got to have some kind of device at home,” Stubenhofer said.

Students will be briefed on how to use their computers when they are at school.

Aside from the Internet access, frustration with technology was probably the biggest complaint from parents this past spring, she said.

“I can fix the device issue, but I can’t fix your Internet,” she said.

Donald Raymer, Marion High principal only planned to issue lockers to students who request them.

Staff of the high school reluctantly agreed to keep open lunch to allow for more social distancing.

“We need to be careful they are going home,” he said of students who leave campus. “That’s where they go.”

He added that anytime students left the building and come back they will have their temperatures checked.

Another issue teachers are struggling with is remote learning.

“Being able to give kids at home the same education as the ones in the classroom — that’s one of their biggest concerns right now, he said. “We’ll do our best to make that happen.”

Homburg said that the ultimate goal was to keep students at school as long as possible.

He praised the custodial staff, saying attention to their jobs has always helped battle outbreaks of disease.

“I firmly believe that we have less flu in the building due to the fact that they are really diligent about making sure we keep things clean,” he said.

Homburg said he understood questions would arise on a daily basis and they might not always be answered.

“It’s difficult for all of us. Nobody, nobody in this room has even been through a pandemic,” he said. “…..We’re going to need to understand this is a working document that can change.”

Last modified Aug. 13, 2020

 

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