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Monday at noon the Salem Community School Board of Trustees met in a special session to approve a recommendation to adjust the first-semester calendar of the fall semester of the 2020-21 school year.

The changes are listed below:

  • August 3, 4, 5 (Monday-Wednesday) – Optional Teacher Technology Training Days
  • August 6, 7 (Thursday and Friday) – Teacher Work Days
  • August 10th (Monday) – First official Student Day
  • October 16th (Friday) – Regular School day, NOT E-learning Day

“We’re only recommending a change for the first semester and we will monitor the Covid impact and the recommendations from health officials for the second semester,” said Salem Superintendent Jon Acton. 

Board member Dustin Davidson made the motion to approve and Mark “Bubba” Abbott gave the second. The motion was passed with all board members voting in approval, with two members voting via Zoom – Ericka Garloch and Becky White. 

RETURN TO SCHOOL CHANGING CONDITIONS

Acton said the Covid-19 situation was ever-changing and fluid.

As the board and public begin to discuss the Return to School plans, most everyone sees that the plans change very quickly.

Several bus drivers have been tasked to create plans for their school buses, which need to be presented to acting transportation director Dee Dee Zink. 

The corporation has posted information online at https://sites.google.com/salemschools.us/scsbacktoschool2020

The corporation has asked that all parents capable of driving their students to school should do so. 

The school said it will train all drivers on Covid-19 related symptoms and prevention including:

  1. Self-Screening of symptoms each day prior to the school day. 
  2. Contact Corporation Nurse and health department provider as needed.
  3. Stay home until symptoms/illness subsides.
  4. Report any known or suspected illness of students to the school. 

Guidelines for student pickup and dropoff are:

  1. Require staff and students to wear masks while on buses. 
  2. Hand sanitizer will be available for use on all buses. 
  3. All students should practice maximizing space at bus stops. 
  4. Where practical, maximizing space should be practiced on the bus. 
  5. Where practical, one student per seat. 
  6. Siblings will be required to sit together. 
  7. Assigned seats will be required to ensure contact tracing. 
  8. Students will be required to keep their hands off the windows. 
  9. Windows will be open to allow fresh air into the bus as weather permits. 
  10. Where practical, the first student on the bus will go to the rear of the bus and fill the seats from the rear forward. Exceptions will be made for those students that must be seated in the front. 
  11. When exiting the bus all students are to remain seated until the rows in front of them have exited. No standing in the aisles is allowed. 

Cleaning and Sanitizing of Buses

  • Buses will be cleaned and sanitized according to the CDC Guidelines
  • Buses will be cleaned and sanitized daily.
  • Where practical, buses will be cleaned and sanitized between routes. 
  • The areas to be cleaned will include those most commonly touched while entering and exiting the bus. Those areas are the handrails, stepwells, seat tops, and driver controls. 
  • If we find that an infected student was on a bus, that bus will be completely cleaned and sanitized before being returned to service.

QUESTIONS FROM BUS DRIVERS

The biggest question came when asked if the student was going to be temperature checked prior to getting on the school bus. 

Acton said there was guidance from the local health department regarding not doing temperature checks. 

“If the student has a temperature and the parents decide to send them on [to school] with medication, they can probably lower the temperature as they get on the bus and in school and later on it could go back up. We have a wellness clinic and the symptoms clinic. On the bus, we don’t have two different areas. We have to be a partner with parents. If they are sick, keep them home. The reality is — if the child comes to school and is sick, we’re shutting down. If the child comes to school and tests positive for Covid, our corporation is shutting down for a minimum of 2 days, but in reality, it’s probably going to be longer.”

According to Alica Thompson, RN at the Washington County Health Department, the Indiana State Department of Health made the recommendation to have parents do their own temperature and Covid screen before allowing the student on a bus or into the school.

“This was not [a directive from] Dr. Jeff Morgan,” she said. “ISDH stated that was too time consuming and a money and social distancing constraint to have screens for every bus and entrance at the schools. They went on to say that it almost guarantees that the screeners would end up positive themselves and therefore in the best interest for the parents to screen daily and well before the child could potentially be in close proximity to others.”

Drivers were present to voice concerns on the return to school plans impacting them and students. 

Bus driver Tina Sorrells said at least five bus drivers have resigned due to health concerns and there could be a few more leaves before the start of school. 

“We’ve lost five drivers already and depending on what some of the outcomes are here,” said Sorrells. “It could double. Don’t know where that puts you. The safety aspect needs to happen before we even get to school.”

The bus drivers thanked the board and administration for paying their salaries from March until the end of school but had the question of whether or not they would be paid if the school corporation goes to an online-only situation. 

Acton said he would have to study on that and see where the corporation finances are with state funding. 

They left Acton with four concerns to study in the next couple of weeks – temperature checks, bus monitors to help make sure students are social distancing and wearing masks, pay for drivers in case school is switched from in-person to virtual and sick students riding on the bus. 

Acton said the requirement to ride the bus is to wear a mask. He said this was a requirement or suggestion from Dr. Morgan, Health Officer of the Washington County Health Department. 

One driver said she drove a bus with special needs students and she said they would not be able to wear masks, referring to the rule of all students wearing masks on the buses. 

“Each one of your questions leads to a unique problem,” said Acton. “They are going to require some unique solutions. What I need today from each of you, is your concerns so we can address them.”

We’ll work with the individuals, students and parents. We’re going to be asking parents a lot….so knowing which individual students on your bus, we’ll start working out that with individual communications,” said Acton. 

Acton said he wanted to hear concerns so “we can begin working out a plan to keep everyone healthy and safe.”

Sorrells also pointed out that if a parent leaves a child at the bus stop and the child gets sick and can’t get on the bus — “who’s responsible for the child?” 

Acton said he would be meeting with bus drivers and school officials to work through some of the issues before the start of school. 

On the returning student registration forms that the corporation currently having parents fill out, there is a transportation form.

According to Erin Humphrey at SCS, the form asks parents to choose if they are willing to help by bringing their child to school or if they need a bus route.

She said the school would be sending a SchoolMessenger call Thursday night to alert everyone the forms are available.

“My test group of about 75 parents who responded to Friday’s social media post and our staff who have children at SCS was completing the forms yesterday and this morning to test and find out if we had any issues,” Humphrey said. 

Forms are live on the school’s website at https://sites.google.com/salemschools.us/scsbacktoschool2020
 
Also, the school would like the public to take this quick survey – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeeiPpwiW_jo42LPTwC8LtxgE87sGJ9fB9FJl7ypzC-lcU2zQ/viewform
 
Acton said approx. 200 Salem students have been enrolled online. 
 
If you’d like to become a bus driver for Salem School Corporation, please contact Dee Dee Zink or Jon Acton at 812.883.4437