Administration plans for an uncertain future

By Tara Brandl

The countdown is on to the start of the 2020-21 school year. Unfortunately, the administration and staff at Tracy Area Public Schools are unsure what the start of the school year will look like and are having to plan for three different options. Administration presented where they were in each of the three options to the school board for feedback Monday night.

The first option, which the board and administration is hoping the governor will choose, includes returning to the classroom on Sept. 8. With the hope of students returning, TAPS has come up with an extensive reopening plan that was presented to the board. Some highlights included in the plan are:

• The school will create as much space as possible between all desks and chairs.

• Students will report directly to their first period class upon arrival at school. Symptom checks will be performed in their first period class and breakfast will be eaten in their first period class.

• Non-essential visitors will be restricted, parents may not eat lunch with their children, and essential visitors must wear a mask upon entering the building.

• Students will stay on the right side of the hallway and masks must be worn in the hallway, when entering or leaving the building or transitioning between classes as well as waiting in line during lunch. Face masks will also be required to be worn on buses at all times. Students will be expected to provide their own masks.

• TAES lunch will be by grade. TAHS lunch tables will have restricted seating, and all self-service areas will be discontinued in the lunch room.

• TAHS parents picking up students will wait in vehicles for children to come out or wait in the vestibule, while TAES parents will wait outside the door to pick up their child, or they may come in the building to pick up young children after a health screening or the child will be brought out to the parent.

• There will be no fifth-grade band, and sixth-grade band will be lessons only.

• Teachers will be encouraged to leave their doors open whenever possible to eliminate touch points. If teachers close their doors, only teachers can open the door.

• Accommodations will be made for vulnerable staff and students.

In addition to planning for the return of students, TAPS has created steps for monitoring for illness and handling suspected or confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 as part of its reopening plan. All staff and students will go through the symptom check daily and be monitored throughout the day. If a staff or student tests positive for or are showing signs of COVID-19, they will be required to stay home until they meet criteria for a return. They will also be required to stay home if they have recently been in close contact with a person with COVID-19 until they meet the criteria for a return.

The school nurse will be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns and will help coordinate with local health authorities regarding positive COVID-19 cases. All students and staff will contact the school nurse if they have symptoms or concerns. The space across from the nurse’s office will be reserved for individuals who are waiting to go home. This space will be cleaned daily. TAPS will develop a plan on how to notify staff, families and the public as needed if a person with COVID-19 was on the school premises while infectious.

While the hope is that students are returning to the classroom for the start of the school year, the school is also preparing for the other two posible ptions required by the Minnesota Department of Education: distance learning and hybrid learning.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.