The Washington School District will begin a “slow and cautious” reopening in June amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer shared Phase 1 re-entry plans Wednesday night at the monthly school board meeting, held via Zoom.
VanLeer stressed that the plans may be modified at any time due to changes in guidance, local health data or at the direction of public health agencies. She also said those not following the safety protocol will be asked to leave the school grounds.
“We are tip-toeing into it,” she said. “Phase 2 will be our plans for July and in August, we will begin Phase 3, with the most desirable plan being back in the schools.”
VanLeer noted the Phase 1 re-entry plan has been reviewed and approved by the Franklin County Health Department. She said area superintendents are meeting weekly via Zoom with county officials, Mercy and other health professionals to discuss data and phased-in plans for reopening.
Additional guidance from the governor’s office should be forthcoming, she added.
At this time, VanLeer said graduation is “still a go” for Saturday, June 27, at Scanlan Stadium on the Washington High School campus at 10 a.m.
In the event of rain, it will be rescheduled for Sunday, June 28, at 11 a.m. at Scanlan Stadium.
This is Plan B for the high school, which also has two more options for graduation in July and August.
VanLeer noted that no decision has been made on prom. Under Plan B, prom would take place Thursday, June 25, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Washington.
However, VanLeer said social distancing guidelines and room capacity make that a difficult decision.
Specific details for the graduation ceremony are still being worked out, she said, but students will be seated 6 feet apart and guests may have to be limited to maintain social distancing between families.
“We may have to do graduation in shifts. We just don’t know yet,” she said. “We are in the planning stages with more details to come.”
In June, the only summer school programming that will take place is for WHS students, which will primarily be conducted virtually. Some in-person tutoring and supports for students seeking credit recovery and remediation with the virtual classes will be held on campus with parent permission.
In-person sessions will be kept to 10 people or less with social distancing of 6 feet. Masks also will be highly recommended where applicable.
VanLeer said WHS and Washington Middle School counselors also will hold some one-on- one sessions with students.
In all of these cases, staff will be screened for coronavirus symptoms by a school nurse and screening questions will be asked prior to student entry.
Additionally, faculty planning teams will begin to meet in June to plan for July summer school programming and beyond.
With these meetings, screening questions will be asked, and social distancing will be required. Masks also are recommended.
At this time, VanLeer said the district is planning to hold in-person summer school at the elementary level for remediation only in July.
“We will keep the group size small and follow all safety precautions,” she said. “We will know more after hearing from the governor.”
VanLeer said the adult LPN program at Four Rivers Career Center will begin meeting again in June both online and in-person instruction in two groups with social distancing, specific cleaning procedures in place and screening of symptoms.
The program nurses will utilize the screening process and use/teach the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), along with other recommended protocols in the classroom, she noted.
Phase 1 also allows some athletic weight training and skill work to begin in small groups with parent permission.
VanLeer said athletes will be allowed to use the weight room with only eight or less in the room at any time, along with one to two supervisors. She stressed the weight training will be strictly voluntary.
The students will have to wash their hands before and after training, and will be instructed not to touch their faces. Social distancing will be followed between athletes and coaches, and all equipment will be cleaned before and after each use. Masks are highly recommended where applicable to protect students.
Coaches also may organize small groups of six to eight athletes for non-contact skill work. This also is voluntary.
VanLeer noted that students will be asked to use their own balls, water bottles and towels, and outdoor facilities will be used as much as possible,
Hand-washing will again be required, along with social distancing and masks where applicable.
Skill work that requires sharing of equipment, such as balls, gloves, batons and other items, will require the use of gloves and all shared equipment will be disinfected after use.
VanLeer said the athletic director will be meeting with coaches to review all of the protocols and more specific details will be coming out soon to parents and students.
Music, band and instruments programs at the high school do not typically meet in June and VanLeer said guidelines for those activities will be announced prior to July.
VanLeer noted the Washington School District’s re-entry plans will look very similar to what other districts in Franklin and Gasconade County are doing, but may differ from those in St. Louis County.
She also cautioned that these plans and safety protocols could change at any time if the situation changes.
“If we need to pivot due to the data or health guidance, we will,” she said.