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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.

The Blair Oaks R-2 Board of Education approved the final fall re-entry plan Monday.

The board did not make any changes, and the final plan will be the same as the draft the district released last week.

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

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 allows for in-person learning but requires preventative and proactive practices, according to the plan.

The district may switch to hybrid instruction if the community is in a yellow risk level, which means there is moderate community spread or positive cases and isolated contact tracing in the school community. Hybrid instruction could include alternating days of attendance and online instruction, according to the plan.

Board member John Weber opposed the plan because he believes it would be safer to start out with hybrid instruction since COVID-19 cases are still increasing, he said.

"In my eyes, it's more of a proactive approach," he said.

Blair Oaks Middle School Principal Kimberley Walters said she believes it's important for the students' socio-emotional needs to go back to 100 percent in-person learning.

Walters also said she believes schools closed in March out of fear and not because of the number of cases. In March, the Cole County Health Department did not recommend that schools close.

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The green plan includes increased sanitation, social distancing and limited visitor access.

In surveys the district used to create its plan, most parents, staff and students expressed additional cleaning measures and temperature checks were important to them. Opinions on masks varied widely.

Under green risk levels, the district will not conduct temperature checks and masks are not required, according to the plan. However, teachers may require masks in their classroom if they choose.

The district has obtained 4,000 cloth masks for students and staff, 150 N95 masks, 200 face shields, 1,500 hand sanitizers and 30 infrared thermometers. Superintendent Jim Jones said the district received most of these supplies from SEMA.

The district also purchased four electrostatic disinfectant sprayer cannons using CARES act funds, and Director of Buildings and Grounds Randy Prenger is building 30 Plexiglas barriers. These barriers would cost about $6,000 to purchase, Jones said, but building them will only cost $510.

The re-entry 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 collaborated with the Cole County Health Department and other Cole County school administrators and used the surveys from parents, staff and students to create the plan.

"We wanted to make a plan that was a reflection of our community and our patrons, and we're going to execute it the best we can," Jones said.

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