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Document: South Callaway R-2 School District re-entry plan draft

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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.

MOKANE — The South Callaway R-2 School District's administration is putting finishing touches on its back-to-school plan.

"We're still fine-tuning plans C and D," Superintendent Kevin Hillman said.

During Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, board members focused on one paragraph of the 22-page plan: "If any student or staff member has a documented medical condition that affects their ability to wear a mask for long periods of time, please notify the school of this condition, and they will be evaluated by school administration and the district's nursing staff."

School board members Brent Woods and Micah Benningfield raised concerns a nurse sharing medical information about a student with district administrators could constitute a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a law that protects sensitive patient health information.

Hillman said, however, the district's legal counsel has extensively reviewed the plans and maintains there's no violation.

"We're not going to infringe on anybody's confidentiality," he said. "We're more than aware of those laws."

He said more than 50 federal and state rules have been waived during this school year, including some that affect this scenario, though he declined to name the specific relevant waivers.

"We have certain rights this year," Hillman said.

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Whether to exempt a student from wearing a mask is a decision that will largely fall to the nurses, not Hillman or other administrators.

Benningfield asked Hillman to edit the paragraph and make the process clearer.

"Right now, it looks and reads as if you all — the administration — is going to make those decisions," he said. "From a HIPAA perspective, you should not know (a student's medical condition) without a release."

Hillman agreed to review the paragraph's language.

Under Plan A — the plan the district hopes to use when school resumes Aug. 24 — students will not be required to wear masks most of the time. Plan B requires mask wearing during periods of movement (such as on the bus and between classes). However, Hillman clarified Wednesday, even under Plan A students might have to mask up occasionally.

"We might ask students to put on a mask because the students can't maintain social distancing during an activity," Hillman said, giving the example of dissecting frogs in biology.

He has asked teachers to clear it with him first before telling students to mask up for an activity.

South Callaway's registration took place outdoors Monday and Tuesday.

Families could opt for either in-person or online learning. About 35 — less than 4 percent of the total student body — opted for online learning. Students have until seven calendar days after classes resume to change their minds.

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