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Document: Blair Oaks Fall 2020 Re-Entry Plan

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The News Tribune is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

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The Blair Oaks R-2 School District has created a draft of its fall re-entry plan, with plans for many different scenarios amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan was created by a task force of 30 people including parents, local health officials, school health personnel, buildings and grounds personnel, guidance counselors, food services staff, transportation personnel, teachers, support staff, administrators and some members of the Board of Education.

The district is using what it learned from summer school, surveys from parents, staff and students, and plans from other area schools to create a plan that best fits Blair Oaks, Superintendent Jim Jones said. The district also collaborated with the Cole County Health Department and other Cole County school administrators to create the plan.

The Blair Oaks Board of Education will review and approve the plan at 6:30 p.m. Monday, and the plan could change based on new information and input.

"One challenge when you wait for the best and most accurate information is that your data is constantly changing in this environment," Jones said. "Input is being received and minor versions made as a result."

When schools are operating with students in the building, they will need to adhere to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Cole County Health Department's health and safety guidelines, the plan states.

"Guidelines may change as circumstances change, which most likely should lead to course corrections throughout the year," it states.

The district has plans for "green," "yellow" and "red" levels of risk, which are modeled after the Cole County Health Department guidelines.

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Green levels occur when there are low numbers of active COVID-19 cases in the community. The community is currently at a green level, which requires preventative and proactive practices, according to the plan.

Yellow levels occur when there is moderate community spread or positive cases and isolated contact tracing in the school community. This would require mitigation strategies and social distancing, and it could include hybrid instruction, such as alternating days of attendance and online instruction, according to the plan.

Red levels indicate substantial community spread or positive cases in a school building requiring extensive contact investigation. This would require "intensive mitigation strategies, isolated closure of areas of the school, staggered days of attendance or short or long-term transition to distance learning," according to the plan.

The district will be in close communication with the Cole County Health Department and health officials regarding the level of risk and may adjust levels of risk to respond to indicators specific to our district, according to the plan.

Under all risk levels, students may be placed in a homeroom, which is a "small, deliberately-designated cohort of students who are typically in the same 6-foot perimeter for a duration of 15 minutes or longer," according to the plan.

Students would stay with the same group of students and adults throughout the day, and groups may be rearranged at various points during the year for variety and balance. Cohorts may not be feasible for middle and high school students, so there may be assigned seating instead.

The district will have special sanitizing equipment and sanitizer, increased cleaning, more hand sanitizing stations and posters emphasizing proper hygiene. Water fountains will not be available, but water bottle refilling stations will be.

While social-distancing efforts could look different at each school, it could include students immediately going to homeroom when entering the building, staggering use of common spaces, staggering dismissal of students, adjusting recess and lunch schedules to allow for more cleaning, students eating lunch outside or in classrooms, spacing students out as much as possible, going outside or to a larger space for some classes, and changing arrival and dismissal procedures.

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Buses will be limited to about 43 students on a 65-passenger bus or 47 students on a 71-passenger bus, according to the plan. Buses will be disinfected between each route, students will load the bus from back to front when possible, and siblings will sit together. Students can wear masks but are not required to.

Masks will not be required under green levels, but they might be under red and yellow levels when social distancing is not possible. A limited supply of disposable masks will be available for students who forget to bring one, according to the plan.

Visitor access will be restricted under all levels. Under green levels, they will only be allowed if they are there to work or provide educational services, and they must complete a wellness screening and be pre-approved by administrators to visit. If visitors need to bring something to the school, they must stay in the front office.

During yellow and red levels, nonessential visitors may be restricted, and each building will record names of visitors, their reason for being there, and where they traveled in the building, according to the plan.

The district is encouraging staff and students to check their temperatures before school and to not come to school if sick. Attendance policies will be temporarily suspended so students to eliminate the pressure to attend, according to the plan. If the risk changes to yellow or red, the district may purchase thermal cameras to check everyone's temperature upon entry, Jones said.

Students and staff who have a temperature of 100 or higher or have any other symptoms will be asked to stay home, and individuals with a fever, cough or a combination of symptoms will be removed from contact with others as next steps are evaluated, according to the plan.

Students and employees who have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case will be isolated from others and dismissed from school, and the affected part of the school or the entire building may be temporarily closed. The student or employee may return if they satisfy the recommendations of the CDC, according to the plan.

The Cole County Health Department will provide guidance on students and staff who have had contact with people who are suspected to have COVID-19.

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After-school activities, such as tutoring, will be provided with "stable groupings, social distancing, and other layers of protection to the highest extent possible," according to the plan. After-school activities may be suspended under yellow and red risk levels.

Extra-curricular activities will follow "applicable directives" from the Missouri State High School Activities Association, according to the plan. These guidelines can be found at mshsaa.org.

During yellow levels of risk, the directors of extracurricular activities will meet with school administration to determine if the program can continue with appropriate mitigation or social distancing practices.

During red levels of risk, extra-curricular activities will generally be discontinued "except in those cases where firm social distancing and health precautions can be assured," such as virtual participation, according to the plan.

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