Mt. Pleasant school board considers face-to-face mitigation tactics

MT. PLEASANT — The Mt. Pleasant Community District school board is continuing to refine the district’s Return to Learn plan.

At a work session held before its regular meeting on Monday evening, Superintendent John Henriksen reviewed potential instructional models the district could choose to implement in the fall.

The models include face-to-face learning, a hybrid model which would include some face-to-face and online elements and completely remote learning.

The models align with mitigation tactics suggested by the CDC depending on levels of community spread that range from none to minimal, minimal to moderate and moderate to substantial, Henriksen said. The district has not yet made any decision on which model they plan to pursue.

Board member Martha Wiley asked about what guidelines have been set to determine the levels of spread. Henriksen said the state has yet to provide guidance on that topic.

In discussion with Henry County Public Health Director Shelley Van Dorin, Henriksen said, it seemed the county had minimal spread based on current numbers. As of Monday evening, Henry County has seen 93 total cases and had 11 active cases, the superintendent added.

When asked for input from the state, the state responded in an email that “they haven’t gotten to it yet,” Henriksen reported.

“Districts are starting to put their own percentages in each one of those slots … because of the time crunch, you start to fill the voids in,” Henriksen said.

Board President Jennifer Crull asked whether demographics would be considered when analyzing community spread. She noted an outbreak at a nursing home or in a prison is different from a sudden surge in cases for 18- to 24-year-old residents.

In discussion about the face-to-face model, board member Josh Maher asked whether the school would be taking student temperatures each day in addition to requiring sanitizing and hand washing upon arrival at school. Henriksen said taking temperatures has not been included in the district’s plan, but schools will be asking parents to take student temperatures before sending children to class. Guidelines note students with temperatures of 100 degrees or above should be kept home.

“I do think it’s important. It’s one of the main indicators … and helps prevent larger spread,” Maher said.

Director of Instruction Kathleen Gavin noted various logistical provisions would have to be considered, including how many thermometers the district would have to purchase as well as the time needed to check temperatures each day.

Crull added it would be important to educate district parents on expectations and the seriousness of meeting those expectations before students are allowed to return to campuses.

In reviewing transportation guidelines, Henriksen said students would be wearing masks on school buses because the district cannot seat students at every other seat. Masks will be available to students.

Refusal to follow the mask-wearing rules on the bus will be disciplined in the same way as other infractions.

“It’s not a right to ride the bus. If you can’t follow the rules, you won’t be able to ride the bus. We’ve also talked about an additional adult on the bus,” Henriksen said.

The face-to-face learning model does not require students to wear masks, but both Henriksen and Gavin said teachers would be wearing either a mask or face shield, and students will be spaced out as much as possible in classrooms. Additionally, students will be taught proper hand washing and hygiene by teachers.

The superintendent said guidelines from the Department of Education did not include taking temperatures of students or requiring masks.

Crull said she felt it would be “easier” for the district if they went “all one way.”

“There’s less interpretation. If we just say, ‘masks are required,’ then there’s no misunderstanding about what our expectations are,” she said. Crull added she feels requiring masks would be important for teachers who may have health issues and are considered more vulnerable.

Gavin brought up concerns around whether younger students would tolerate wearing masks for long periods of time.

Board member Kevin Sanderfelt added without following proper mask hygiene, the use of masks could add to unsanitary conditions.

The board will continue to review the Return to Learn plan at its next work session July 20.

“It continues to be a work in progress,” Henriksen said.