As students prepare to get back into the classrooms, the Alliance School Board is working to determine the best way to proceed with reopening after closing their facilities in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
At the board meeting on July 13, Alliance Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Troy Unzicker gave board members an update, noting that the district is waiting on a number of factors before determining how best to integrate students in the classrooms. He said he is waiting for Governor Pete Ricketts to issue a new Directed Health Measure, though it is uncertain whether the measure will address schools.
“We all know it can change in a moment’s notice based on number of positive cases brought forward,” said Unzicker. “We’re waiting to see that. Once I see Unified Command’s guidance, I’ll compare it to what I wrote, along with the input I get from you (board members). My intent will then be to release it to staff and the public so they can have a copy of it. I will follow that with a survey for anybody that wants to provide input.”
Unzicker said he is expecting a wide range of responses to the survey, which may be found on the school’s website at www.alliancebulldogs.org. The reopening plan details guidelines set in place by Unified Command based on the categorization of Alliance Public Schools being considered a low risk of spreading COVID-19. The plan is expected to be updated multiple times before school starts.
In the plan’s current form, at all risk levels, the school is expecting 100 percent attendance, with certain students being given options for attending remotely. At all risk levels, the school will place students in a way that will maintain spacing and reduce exposure risks. At a moderate risk level, six-foot distancing will be implemented by arranging or limiting seating in all rooms. At a high risk level, students will follow the guidelines of the previous risk levels, and areas will be closed to all non-curricular activities. Six-foot markings will also be placed on the floor where it is applicable.
Students, staff and all visitors will be asked to stay home if they are ill or display symptoms of COVID-19. At a low risk, students will be asked to sanitize their hands before entering and exiting the school, and students will be checked for symptoms and temperature. At a moderate risk, temperature checks will be performed and students with a temperature of 100.4 or above will be asked to remain at home. The district will also develop a protocol for picking up and dropping off students, with doors being opened for those entering and exiting the building. At a high risk, students will follow the preceding guidelines, and will follow a protocol for entering and exiting the building.
Under the transportation guidelines, masks will be encouraged at the low and moderate risk levels, as well as social distancing. At the high risk level, social distancing between family groups will be required, as well as masks. Students will also undergo a mandatory temperature and symptom check.
Under the recess guidelines, at a low risk category, students will be asked to wash or sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the building. At a moderate risk, recesses will be staggered to better maintain social distancing. At a high risk, no shared recesses will be allowed.
Under the guidelines for meals and snacks, at a low risk, students will be asked to wash or sanitize their hands before and after eating. At a moderate risk, meal times will be staggered to allow for social distancing and entries and exits for meals will be designated. At a high risk, the previous guidelines will be in place, as well as requiring only disposable plates and utensils to be used. There will b no self-service salad bar or buffet, and meals will be plated and handed to students.
As for extracurricular activities at low and moderate risk levels, all travel for field trips and activities will be assessed before they are approved. At a high risk, no field trips or extracurricular activities will be allowed.
Visitors to the school will be asked to perform temperature and symptom checks before visiting. At a moderate risk, non-essential visitors may be limited, and sign-in procedures will be implemented. At a high risk, non-essential visitors will not be allowed.
Face coverings will be recommended at a low risk level if social distancing is not able to be maintained, and will be required at moderate and high risk levels if social distancing cannot be maintained.
According to the plan, staff will work diligently to disinfect common areas by following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control. All HVAC systems will be set to enhance fresh air throughout the buildings. Drinking from water fountains will not be allowed, and students will be encouraged to bring bottles of water, which may be refilled at designated stations.
The plan states that the guidelines will be put in place unless contradicted by a medical provider.
“Our top priority is the safety of students, staff and visitors,” the plan stated. “Thank you for your patience and understanding during these difficult times.”
The proposed plan is set to go before the school board no later than Aug. 10. People may view the plan on the school’s website, and are encouraged to provide feedback before the board meets.