WINONA – Student at Winona Christian School will return to school on August 6, with the school planning traditional, face-to-face instruction with safety measures and social distancing in place to combat spread of COVID-19.
According to Headmaster Jimmy Pittman, the school released its official reopening plan to parents Monday, which included detailed plans for social distancing, cleaning, cafeteria plans, and holding school activities.
“Nobody has the answer,” Pittman said about returning to school. “It changes every day. All we can do is the best we can. We are doing everything to protect our children but give them the school year they deserve.”
According to the reopening plan, measures will be implemented to social distance inside and out of the classroom, with teachers organizing classrooms to allow desks to be spaced out as much as possible. In addition, each classroom will be cleaned between classes; hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom, hallway, restroom, and activity area; and water fountains will be turned off with students bringing their own water bottles with them to school.
Temperatures of every student and staff member will be checked each morning and periodically throughout the day.
“Everyone who walks on this campus will have their temperature checked in the morning and during the course of the day,” Pittman said.
Face coverings will be required to be worn in the hallways, during breaks, waiting for lunch in the cafeteria, and in the car-rider line. However, Pittman said he is leaving the use of face coverings up to his teachers inside the classrooms.
“I’m giving that decision to my teachers,” Pittman said. “If they feel their students should wear masks in their classrooms, that is what they will do. Our teachers are coming to work, and if students wearing masks makes them feel safer, that is what we want to do.”
Homework will be done at school when possible to limit the transfer of textbooks from school to home and back. Textbooks will remain in the classroom.
Pittman said Plexiglas is currently being installed in the cafeteria, along the food service area, and the cafeteria staff will be cleaning throughout the day. Breaks and lunch will be staggered to prevent overcrowding in the cafeteria, and picnic tables have been added around campus so students can eat outside when the weather is nice.
As for physical education and other student activities, Pittman said these activities will be held outside as much as possible. Art will be taught in the classroom, but work stations will be spaced and materials sanitized between classes. Library materials and computer keyboards will also be sanitized between uses in the school library.
Pittman said the Kindergarten classes will be isolated to the Kindergarten Building and playground. Lunch will be eaten inside the Kindergarten Building.
“We are going to isolate those babies,” Pittman said. “They have their own building and their own playground.”
Pittman said the annual open house held prior to the first day of school will not be held this year, however, parents will be able to drop-off school supplies and meet teachers from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5. After school starts, no parents or visitors will be allowed inside buildings on campus, including the Kindergarten Building. All guests needing assistance must visit the sliding window at the school office.
Currently, Grandparents Day is suspended, as are field trips. The Meet the Stars event will be held at the Stars Stadium this year, however, parents and students will be encouraged to social distance.
If a student or staff member tests is sent home with fever or other COVID-19 symptoms, they can return to school after obtaining a medical diagnosis of something other than COVID-19 and a physician’s note releasing the student or staff member to return. If a student or a staff member tests positive, they can return when they can produce medical documentation that declares them safe to return.
Any student or staff member who lives in a household where someone tests positive, should isolate for three days and be fever-free for 72 hours before returning to school.
“Our plan is to start and finish,” Pittman said. “We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that happens.”
This school year, Pittman said student enrollment is up around 15 percent, with some classes close to capping out, especially in the lower elementary classes.
“We like to keep our student/teacher ratio at 15 to 1,” Pittman said. “When you get to 20 to 1, we have to look at dividing up classes and hiring new teachers.”