The start of the 2020-21 school year is going to be unprecedented for all involved.
This summer, Brownstown Central Community School Corp. officials have had several discussions in an effort to keep students, staff and teachers safe and offer a virtual option for students not comfortable going to school because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
During the board of trustees’ recent work session and regular monthly meeting, the corporation’s reopening plan was reviewed and approved. Board members also learned how officials plan to use the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding made available.
Superintendent Tim Taylor said the corporation has around $178,000 that can be used. Most of the purchases will be for cleaning supplies for the custodial staff and teachers and for the nurses at each of the three schools.
Part of the funding also will be used to pay the salary of a half-time nurse, who will help Joyce McKinney, the corporation’s nurse supervisor. The district is looking to fill that two-year position, and the school board will consider approval of that hiring at its next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11.
"We’re already seeing the large amount of time that Joyce McKinney is going to be involved with contact tracing and other duties as we try to prepare to open with COVID-19 and all of the expectations there, so we think this is a good use of that money," Taylor told trustees. "We hope that half-time is enough."
With the pandemic, Taylor said he expects McKinney to take on more of an administrative role.
"She’s going to have to be the point of contact for the health department and for doing some of our tracing on different individuals and putting those plans together on when they return to school and all of those details," he said.
"We want to make sure that we can cover all of the other daily routines that she might not be able to get to because of these responsibilities," he said. "We don’t want to miss the other needs that we have in the buildings."
Taylor said McKinney will determine the amount of hours and days the half-time nurse will work. She has health aides who work under her at the three schools. A part-time person recently resigned, but another one was moved to full time to cover that loss.
Assistant Superintendent Jade Peters said he, McKinney and Maintenance Director Randy Ude recently looked at all of the nurse’s stations and came up with plans to establish COVID-19 rooms. McKinney requested those include air purifiers to help purify the air and also have extra cots and face masks in the nurse’s station.
As far as the other CARES Act money, Peters said an order recently was placed for more than $6,000 worth of plexiglass to install in the offices and other places where face-to-face contact is most likely to occur.
"We may need additional ones after that, but we thought we would at least get this first order in and make sure we got an order in," Peters said.
The corporation will be providing two face masks and a face shield for all students and staff. It recently provided materials and sewing machines to the Jackson County Jail to have inmates make the masks. Disposable masks also were ordered to put on buses and around the schools.
Forehead strips will be sent home with students so they can take their temperature before going to school each day. If the temperature is 100.4 or higher, the student must stay home.
"We figured that some of our people probably don’t have a thermometer or don’t have experience with reading one, etc.," Taylor said. "If kids are sick, we want them to stay home, so we want to try to help them as much as we can with that."
Officials also ordered 35 touchless infrared forehead thermometers to have throughout the schools. McKinney said the type ordered can be synchronized with the thermometers in the nurse’s offices so they don’t get two different readings.
Medical-grade sanitizer and handheld foggers will be available, too.
In terms of the reopening plan, students have the option of going to school or doing virtual instruction.
With the virtual option, students in kindergarten through fifth grade will receive instruction from an elementary teacher in their grade level. Teachers will communicate to students via Google Classroom to share instruction that follows what is being taught in the classroom each day.
Taylor said CARES Act money will be used to provide a stipend to the teachers chosen to oversee the students in each elementary grade level.
For students in grades 6 through 12 choosing the virtual option, they will receive instruction through Edmentum Online Courseware.
Students who choose the virtual option of instruction may participate in extracurricular activities and athletics as long as they meet the eligibility standards of the school and Indiana High School Athletic Association.
The full reopening plan, virtual option information and application, documents specific to each school and parent resources can be found online at btownccs.k12.in.us/community/covid-plan.
"We’re trying to get out as much information as we can, and I think it’s important to do that because you’re going to trigger more questions, but if we don’t tell the story, somebody else is going to tell the story," Taylor said. "We will continue to do everything the very best we can, and that’s all we can do is learn and grow in this situation and do our best. You have our word that that’s what we will do."
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Brownstown Central Community School Corp.’s full reopening plan, virtual option information and application, documents specific to each school and parent resources can be found online at btownccs.k12.in.us/community/covid-plan.