Boonville school district readies for reopening

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News

Students and staff will return to classrooms Aug. 24 after the Boonville R-1 Board of Education approved the reopening plan Monday for the district.

Reopening plans still could change between now and the first day of school though, Superintendent Sarah Marriott said. The plan right now is students and teachers will return to classrooms for the first time since March 17.

Summer school just ended and Marriott is excited to for students to learn again, whether virtually or in-person.

“We miss our students,”she said. “Learning is why we are in education. We feel that obviously it’s extremely important.”

The district wants to be able to provide a high-quality education for students so the community can continue to succeed. This requires out-of-the-box thinking, Marriott said.

The board approved the following options for fall enrollment: students can choose between in-person enrollment, online/virtual enrollment, home school or another family choice for the 2020-21 school year.

This was one of the biggest questions families had, Marriott said.

This was not an easy decision by the district, but the district wanted to provide an opportunity for all families to choose an option in which they felt was the best choice for their family, she said.

Changes in the modes of instruction still may change, and so the district is working closely with partner agencies to determine any needed changes as they may arise.

The Boonville district currently is in the green level, which is a full person schedule with added health precautions.

There are a total of four levels, with the blue level allowing full in-person schedule with health precaution. After the blue and green levels, Marriott said the yellow level is two in-person days and three virtual days. As for the red level, Marriott said this is distance learning for all students.

The district continues to communicate with the local health department as well as review information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the possible need to change levels as a school district.

“We have a plan in place if we need to take further health precautions, but right now we will utilize the local health department information as well as the CDC guidelines to go full person instruction,”Marriott said.

Regardless of which option parents choose, school will start Aug. 24 and the semester will end Dec. 22.

“I would emphasize that if they choose virtual enrollment, the student has to commit for a full semester of enrollment so that they can’t come in and come back out,”Marriott said. “They are committing to complete the entire semester.”

Virtual education will occur in the student’s home at the parent’s direction. In addition, Marriott said students may enroll in a maximum of six courses in one semester. Students who enroll in virtual courses also are required to take MAP/EOC assessments administered by the district, she said.

As for extracurricular activities, decisions are allowed at the district level. The board voted to allow students that engage in 100% virtual enrollment at the Boonville School District to also participate in extracurricular activities such as band, athletics at Boonville High School and athletics at LSE.

“The students still have to meet all of the MSHSAA eligibility requirements and maintain those,”Marriott said.

The district contracts its bus service. Because of this, the district does not have full oversight over what guidelines are used, but students may be have their temperature taken upon boarding and give assigned seats, Marriott said.

Older students — those in sixth through 12th grade — will be expected to wear a face covering when not able to physically distance and students will be allowed to maintain a personal water bottle at school.

Health education will be part of the first week of lessons and will be reinforced throughout the year to maximize ongoing compliance by students and staff.

If a student or staff member becomes ill while at school, the nurse/health aide will assess for signs and symptoms of respiratory illness. Any student with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, will have a mask on and wait in the health office for the parent/guardian to take home.

Visitor restrictions may be adjusted based upon the current tier with low risk. There are designations for when visitors would be allowed to school buildings. Visitor restrictions will depend on exposure risk. Student and staff temperature screening will be carried out at building entries with approved thermal cameras.

An isolation room will be established for possible or probable COVID positive students.

Maintenance and custodial staff are participating in in-service training related to cleaning and disinfection according to health guidelines. The district is looking at installation of automatic door opening systems, Marriott said.

The decisions by the board haven’t been easy, she said. Information from committees and administrative staff has been shared for more than a month.

“We want to make sure we are taking all necessary measures to protect the safety and health of our students and staff,” Marriott said. “We are educators, which I think is really hard work. We’re not health professionals and so when we are trying to make decisions based on public health. We are using a lot of information from our health department and CDC, [but] that’s lot of pressure and quite a burden for school districts to have.”

The district will be heavily influenced and dictated by local health precautions for sporting events. Boonville will have to abide by other local county regulations, so it is dependent on which county and community athletes travel and what is happening in a particular community, Marriott said.

Indoor and outdoor sporting events also will determine whether fans wear a mask, she said.

Students will see thermal scanners placed throughout the school district. The board agreed to purchase nine thermal scanners at a cost of $7,000 each. The district will apply for reimbursement from county CARES Act money.

“They can scan more than one person at a time,”Marriott said. “The main reason for this is if we did a handheld scan device for each person, that would take a long time and create a bottleneck situation in which we have large amounts of students waiting. Hopefully, we can move through rather quickly and it’s going to be a lot less time consuming yet very accurate.”

Staff will stand in front of the monitor and it will get a temperature reading. If a student or visitor has a temperature, they will be directed to the health office.

“Yes, it’s pretty expensive but yet we are hoping to and we are pretty confident that we will receive the reimbursement through the county for that,” Marriott said “We feel the benefit outweighs the cost for that.”