Pandemic Concerns Continue to Impact Local School Districts
July 22, 2020
Turner Public School District is currently developing a school reopening plan. Revisions to that plan are occurring frequently based on changing recommendations from federal, state, and local officials.
According to Turner Public School (TPS) Superintendent Tony Warren, their small class sizes provide a distinct advantage in reopening for the new school year because social distancing guidelines are more easily met. Therefore, he remains optimistic that Turner Schools will be able to welcome back students for in-person instruction beginning on August 19.
TPS hopes to have updated information in the coming weeks regarding their reopening plan. “The district would like to thank Jana McPherson with the Blaine County Health Department for her assistance in helping us develop a reopening plan,” Warren said.
On July 7 and 8, the U.S. Department of Education held a press conference with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and members of the Coronavirus Task Force. During this press conference, the Administration indicated that federal funding could be predicated on an obligation to fully open schools. However, this position contradicts information previously released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield stated that new school reopening guidance will be issued in the coming weeks. Blaine County public schools are closely monitoring these developments.
Redfield maintained on July 9 that the guidelines themselves won’t change. Instead of revising the guidelines, the CDC will make “additional reference documents” available to school officials to help them determine how to best use the guidelines for their districts. It’s not clear yet what those additional documents are or how they might impact local school districts that are already reworking and agonizing over back-to-school plans.
In draft CDC documents obtained by the Associated Press, the agency says schools can take certain steps to safely reopen but that it “cannot provide one-size-fits-all criteria for opening and closing schools or changing the way schools are run.”
The documents go on to say that “decisions about how to open and run schools safely should be made based on local needs and conditions.”
The CDC guidelines for schools to reopen contain steps to keep children safe, including the placement of desks at six feet apart, the wearing of cloth face coverings, and the frequent sanitizing of surfaces. The CDC further suggests the closing of communal areas like dining rooms and playgrounds and the installation of physical barriers like sneeze guards where necessary and practical.
"Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community," the CDC guidelines state.
“Although things are constantly changing, which makes planning challenging, we will continue to work with the Blaine County Health Department to ensure that we meet the CDC guidelines as we plan to open our school,” Warren concluded.