Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Schneider introduced during the Board of Education work session Thursday a reopening plan that includes the requirement for face coverings "when possible."
Board members will act on the plan during their regular meeting on Aug. 10, which is little more than a week before the start of the school year, on Aug. 18.
“The only thing I probably know for sure is something will change between now and Aug. 18. I just don’t know what it is,” Schneider said.
He wanted to give the district and the public a chance to communicate about the plan and give board members the opportunity to think about it and ask to approve a plan at the August board meeting, which is a little more than a week before the start of the school year.
“I know a lot of people would say ‘You can’t just approve a plan nine days before school starts. How can parents be prepared?’ ” he said. “I think most of the plan is not going to be controversial. I think there’s one part that is, but that’s something we can notify people by phone about and they can be ready the next day.”
HPS buildings will have masks available for students.
By “when possible” Schneider said district officials, as well as local health officials, realize it is not realistic for students and staff to wear masks for the entirety of the day.
“There are going to be times in our school when teachers can go to a place where they can give kids a break on the face covering,” he said. “Maybe they take their class outside when the weather is appropriate.”
Classes will also utilize large rooms.
He said there will probably be some exceptions for medical reasons.
Preschool students will not be recommended to wear them based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The district will be diligent about hand washing and sanitizing.
Other options being discussed include temperature checks in every classroom and more custodial staff in schools during the day to help out with sanitization.
More space will be allotted for lunchtimes, allowing students to spread out.
HPS administrators worked with representatives from Adams Central Public Schools and Hastings Catholic Schools, as well as local health officials to come up with a generalized guide with basic protocols for reopening.
“It is our goal to be open this fall with all students with an alternate option for those not able to attend,” Schneider said. “This is not going to be a simple goal to achieve. This is going to be difficult. I don’t want to understate that. I don’t think most people understand how hard this is going to be for our staff, our students and our families in our community.”
The HPS reopening plan Schneider discussed Thursday included three options: having 50% of students attending at a time; all students would be allowed to attend and masks would be recommended but not required; and the option Schneider recommended — requiring face coverings “when possible.”
Option one creates huge challenges for parents ad employers.
Schneider said he thought it should be last resort.
With option two, families would need to prepare for the likelihood of a quarantine.
Schneider gave the example of a third grade classroom.
“We all know, at some point in time it’s not going to be if we have a positive case in our district, it’s going to be when,” he said.
If the teacher and other students don’t wear face coverings it is likely that room is going to be quarantined for 14 days.
“Now, put that at the middle school,” he said. “The student goes to maybe seven different rooms in a day with seven different teachers and seven different kids.”
Teams at the middle school are about 125 students and six teachers.
“If we have this going around all through the middle school, I don’t know how we’re open,” he said. “It makes it nearly impossible.”
Option three works better for parents and employers, and likely would result in fewer quarantines than option two due to face coverings.
Students and staff will remain home when sick, even if it is a cold.
“We are going to have massive absences,” Schneider said.
Safety is the district’s first priority for all students and staff members.
“Ultimately we are relying on the health professionals,” Schneider said. “That is why we are recommending this option. We realize this is going to be difficult but this is the option we believe gives us the best chance to have school on a regular basis.”
Among other business during the meeting, the school board announced the resignation of board member Bob Sullivan.
Sullivan said he would speak more about the resignation during the board's regular meeting on Monday.