Robinson Unit 2 officials want to be ready for the start of a new school year in the fall, whatever that might bring.
Unit 2 board members Monday looked ahead to a time when the COVID-19 shutdown will be a thing of the past. They don’t really know what might happen and they’ve received no directives from the state, but they don’t want to wait until the last minute to start making plans.
“We don’t have any specific guidance from anyone yet,” Superintendent Josh Quick told the board. “But we don’t want to be caught flat-footed.”
Quick and the board want to start preparing contingency plans now. Quick likened it to a company building five planes. No one knows where they’re going on when they’re leaving, but they want to be ready when the time comes.
Anything is possible come fall, ranging from schools being 100 percent open to being 100 percent shuttered. Quick said he suspects the truth will fall somewhere in between.
One very real likelihood is that schools will reopen limits on student numbers and mandatory screening of every person who enters a school.
Students and adults alike will likely be questioned about whether they have flu-like symptoms or have traveled outside the U.S. recently. They will also probably have to have their temperatures taken as they enter school buildings.
“That’s going to be kind of challenging,” Quick said. The process could be time consuming and keep employees tied up when they could be working on other matters. Scanning students once they arrive in class would be easier but would also be too late.
Things could move faster using a thermal scanner. Quick is looking into prices. They won’t be inexpensive, he said, but the investment could be worth it.
Personal protective equipment also may be needed. Unit 2 has acquired 6,000 masks but they might not last long depending on what it required.
Limits on the number of students in classrooms or on buses may not be a problem here if the state allows up to 50 children in one place at a time. A limit of 25, however, would mean Unit 2 would have to double the number of bus routes it runs at a time when it is already short on drivers.
Also, there will be some students who, because of pre-existing medical conditions, will not be able to return to school in the fall. They will need to continue using remoting learning.
“They didn’t choose to become home-schooled,” board member Dennis Inboden said. “We need to assure their parents that their children’s needs will be met.”
No matter, Quick said, the district wants to continue working to eliminate the challenges educators have encountered with remote learning. A $285,000 federal grant Unit 2 received can be used to make improvements. The money also can be used to purchase thermal scanners and masks.
In a related matter, the board approved extending its food services contract with Opaa through June 30. This will allow the district to continue providing breakfasts and lunches for students until then.
Quick and board president Bill Sandiford both praised school employees for the way they dealt with the challenges the pandemic created.
“It’s been an extremely difficult year for all our administrators and staff,” Sandiford said, expressing his appreciation for their efforts.
“It’s been a very strange and challenging time, but everybody really stepped up,” Quick added.
Among the challenges was graduation. A total of 103 Robinson High School seniors graduated this year with almost all of them opting to participate in a “virtual graduation” ceremony last week, RHS principal Victoria McDonald said.
In other business, the board gave tentative approval to the amended budget. There have been few changes and most of those were to the district’s benefit, Quick explained.
Revenues have proven slightly higher than initial projections. So have expenses. A public hearing is planned on the amendments at 5:15 p.m. Monday, June 22, prior to the next board meeting.
Summer work at the schools is underway. Paving at Lincoln Elementary School is completed and “looks really good.” Windows in the south wall of the oldest part of the school have been removed to allow repairs to brickwork. Work is also progressing on the RHS entrance and gymnasium.
In personnel matters, Melinda Daugherty was hired as a third-grade teacher at LES and Paige Dill was employed as an RHS English teacher. Mike Billingsley, Jason Hartke, Gary Kapper and Mack Thompson were hired as driver’s education instructors.
Eric Dean and Kourtney Coffman were hired as summer school teachers at Nuttall Middle School, Scott Albright was hired to do summer mowing and Kristen Johnson, Mary Carter, Beth Rynke and Ruth Fiscus were hired as a summer paint crew.
The resignation of LES special education teacher Kristen Coartney was approved, as was the retirement of LES head cook Debbie Cooley.