At its monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the East Allen County Schools Board of School Trustees delicately deliberated the topic of bringing students back to school in the midst of a global pandemic.
In a news release to the public, the board noted that its reopening plan had been carefully crafted with the input of several sources.
“We have developed a plan based on information we received from our parent and teacher surveys, collaboration with the East Allen Educators Association, and guidance from the Allen County Department of Health, Indiana Department of Education, and the Governor’s Office.”
The board hopes to bring students back Monday, Aug. 10, said district Public Information Officer Tamyra Kelly.
“We are looking forward to and anticipating seeing our students and staff back in our buildings,” the board said. “We will be taking extra precautions with disinfecting and cleaning high-touch areas, as well as practicing social distancing. Students and staff will be required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.”
In addition to those precautions, bus drivers will be required to wear masks, and students will be given assigned seats on school buses, to make contract tracing easier if it needs to be done. Buses also will be disinfected after each trip to and from school. Classroom seating charts will accomplish the same task.
Students also now will only have one drop-off and one pick-up point on bus routes.
Lunch and other meal service will look different as well. Social distancing will be required in the cafeteria and in food lines. The cafeteria will now also only use disposable plates and utensils. Most meals also will be pre-packaged.
There will be no more field trips, and all water fountains will be turned off, as it would be too risky to use after someone who might be infected.
Hand sanitizer will be made available in all school rooms, and students and staff will be encouraged to clean their hands upon entry and exit from each room. Staff also will frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces such as door handles, light switches, computer keyboards and computer mice.
Online registration for currently enrolled and returning students will take place July 24 to July 31. For new pupils, families will have to set up an appointment to get enrolled. Those appointments will be held at each individual school, and information about the student’s proof of residency and immunization records is required. More information on those topics can be found on the EACS website, www.eacs.k12.in.us, or by calling EACS Student Services at 260-446-0289.
While registering, students and parents will have to decide whether they want to do traditional classroom instruction, or remote learning online.
“There will be options for instruction (in-person or eLearning),” EACS officials noted, “but parents and students must commit to an option for the entire fall semester.
“TOGETHER, we will create the best educational learning environment for our students,” officials said.
As Allen County Health Commissioner Matthew Sutter watched the meeting from the board dais, EACS Superintendent Marilyn Hissong noted that her district’s teamwork with local health officials has been fruitful toward reopening.
“Our collaboration with the Allen County Board of Health has been tremendous,” she said.
For more information about EACS’ reopening plans, visit www.eacs.k12.in.us or call the district office at 260-446-0100.
In other business:
The school board heard from Kirby Stahly, EACS’ assistant superintendent of administrative services, that the board may have to issue bonds to raise money for construction work to be done at several schools. About seven or eight schools need work on their HVAC systems, while about the same number need repairs to their roofs and asphalt in their parking lots. The maximum amount of the bond would be about $5.3 million, Stahly noted.