Seneca Valley School District’s return-to-school plan — which currently projects a five-day-a-week, in-person schedule, although board members noted July 20 that could change — follows and expands on state and federal health guidelines and mandates.
The 50-page document, which was released following last week’s school board meeting, is based on the state Department of Education’s re-opening template, expounding on such topics as sanitizing, physical distancing, protecting high-risk students and student and staff monitoring. A 17-page synopsis is also available on the district’s website.
The district will follow state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s universal mask dictate as well as stage desks apart “when feasible.” Like other local districts, including South Butler County School District, Seneca Valley will also prevent the use of water fountains and take steps to encourage distancing in hallways between classes for grades in which that is done.
Superintendent Tracy Vitale emphasized last week that the plan is fluid and open to change based on the latest information, guidelines and instruction.
The first stop on many students’ days is the bus stop. There, the district will “encourage” social distancing. It also suggests that students consider alternative transportation methods — such as a parent’s car — to and from school in an effort to reduce how many students will be bused.
On the bus, face coverings will be required, and windows and roof vents will be open whenever possible. If the county were in the yellow phase, students would not be seated in the first row, again when feasible.
After students are dropped off at school, buses will be sanitized and disinfected between primary and secondary student routes and between morning and afternoon runs, and will receive a deeper clean after the last run of the day.
When students arrive at school, mitigation efforts will continue. Even before students arrive for the day, sanitization will occur. Vitale said at Monday’s meeting that the district had procured machines that make deep-cleaning easier and faster, and therefore more feasible to do overnight, rather than once per week.
“Disinfecting is the district’s top priority to mitigate the risk of (COVID-19) transmission,” the return-to-school document states. “Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses on hard, nonporous surfaces.”
Disinfectant spray bottles will also be provided in each classroom, hand sanitizer will be available in virtually every room and hallway and hygienic practices such as washing hands will be encouraged.
To encourage physical distancing, students will be seated three to six feet apart — when possible — in classrooms, and the district will try to use outdoor spaces, gymnasiums and auditoriums to help meet the distancing guidelines.
If the county is in yellow, the students will be seated six feet apart, rather than three to six, and all desks will face the same direction. In classrooms with tables, if the county were in the yellow phase, students would either sit only on one side or would be separated by plexiglass dividers.
Many of these efforts will be mirrored in cafeterias, where lines will be segmented with six-foot markers and traffic-flow markers will dot the floors. Tables will be sanitized, disposable utensils will be available when possible and food items will be covered, wrapped or otherwise contained.
Visitation will be heavily restricted in both the green and yellow phases, and items forgotten at home can be dropped off in a contact-free area. Visitors will have their temperature taken and must have arranged an appointment.