Navigating back to school Covid style

Back to school in Parker will look a little different this year. On Monday, Aug. 3, the district released its Start Well Return to Learn COVID-19 plan. In it, are the details for returning to school in three weeks. Although masks are not required, they are recommended. Nine-year-old Lincoln Deelstra works with Laura Janzen at school on Tuesday, Aug. 4. (Photo/Sarah Ebeling)

Sarah Ebeling | Managing Editor

On Monday, Aug. 3, the Parker School District released its 15 page “Start Well and Return to Learn COVID-19 Plan.” 

The guide, sent to every parent in the district, and shared on social media, explains in detail what the school is planning when they open later this month. 

The plan was devised by the Parker administration team, the Parker Accountability team and several community members who made up the Parker Return to Learn Community Member team. 

In the guide, readers will find that the school is committed to getting kids back into learning, with as much time as possible, being spent in the classroom. However, given the nature of how contagious COVID is, the district has also put together remote learning expectations in case the school does have to close for any length of time. 

School, slated to begin Wednesday, Aug. 26, will be done with students in the school building. The Back to School Start Well Committee has created a leveled system approach for students, staff and community safety. Included in that approach is the recommendation, although not requirement, that students and staff wear masks when social distancing is not possible. The guide notes that congested areas consist of common areas such as physical education, music class and hallways. 

As for other safety measures, students will be allowed time in their day to accommodate hand washing and sanitizing. Posters for correct procedures will be on display throughout the building. 

The school will be cleaned multiple times a day, depending on the area, to ensure the safety of everyone in the school. Buses will also be disinfected after both morning and afternoon routes are completed. 

Another safety measure will be mealtime at Parker. Breakfast and hot lunches will be served daily with individually wrapped condiments available to students. Lunches and recesses will be staggered and additional tables have been purchased to allow for increased social distancing. 

School doors will open daily at 7:40 a.m. and elementary students will immediately enter the building to wash their hands and report to their classroom. Dismissal times will vary in an effort to adhere to social distancing also. 

For parents and students wishing to learn remotely, students must commit to one quarter of distance learning. Students will be expected to log into virtual class sessions throughout the day, for each class. Parents are asked to notify the school by Monday, Aug. 10, if they wish to participate in distance learning. 

There are several different formats available for distance learning, depending on a students’ age. Grades kindergarten through fourth will have a learning schedule where as grade fifth through 12th will be expected to attend live online classes according to their scheduled times. 

Parker will be enacting a leveling system in the event a COVID case occurs at the school. Level 0 indicates that there are zero cases in the community and the South Dakota Department of Health (SDDOH) recommends that school remain in session. Level 1 indicates that there have been positive COVID cases in the community, but not in the school. Because of that, the SDDOH recommends that school remain in session. Level 2 is when a student or staff member has contracted the virus. During such an event, the district will decide upon possible closures, such as what grades, ages, wing of the school could stay open, a 72-hour cleaning cycle or up to a 14-day quarantine. During a Level 3, staff will continue to report to the school, but all students would remote learn. 

Superintendent Donavan DeBoer said, “If I can say anything — it’s that this really needs to start at home as far as keeping kids home if they are sick. The midwestern attitude is to power through and tough it out and we just need to swallow that pride and take care of everyone else by doing the right thing on our own doorstep.”

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