Online or five-day-a-week schooling available at Royall

By SARAH PARKER | County Line Editor

The Royall Board of Education approved the administration’s draft reopening plan at its meeting Monday, but Superintendent Mark Gruen noted that the document is subject to change as circumstances surrounding the pandemic evolve.

Gruen attended the meeting virtually, as he had been exposed to someone with Covid-19 and was quarantining at home. His quarantine ended Tuesday.

Royall will have in-person school five days a week, with virtual options available through outside services. The district still will be able to include virtual students in its enrollment figures.

Children should have masks (if they don’t have one, the district will provide one). No guests will be allowed in the building, including parents. If family members or other guests are invited to the school building, they must wear face masks and undergo a pre-screening process.

The district will ask parents to do a child wellness check before school each day, including taking his or her temperature. If a child is suffering from other symptoms of Covid-19, he or she should remain home, according to the plan.

Students will need to use hand sanitizer before boarding their bus, plus they will need to wear masks or face shields on the bus. They will have assigned bus seating and will have to sit with family members. Buses will be disinfected after each route.

The district is asking parents who are able to do so to transport their children to school.

Drinking fountains will be unavailable other than to fill personal water bottles, which will be added to the district’s school supply list.

Also, each classroom will have a hand-sanitizing station, and social distancing will be practiced when possible.

The board considered renting a mobile office resembling a construction trailer to quarantine a student who arrives at school with symptoms of coronavirus, as that structure would have its own air flow. But board member Doug Waterman suggested that to save money, a room within the school could be used instead.

The district will provide each student with a Chromebook to use at home, and students will be asked not to share devices.

Rich Brown of Brown’s Bus Service asked how a driver should handle a situation in which a young child showing obvious signs of illness attempts to board the bus.

“Do we let them on and bring them to school and tell the school nurse, or do we say, you need to go back in the house. That’s fine if you’re 12.” But managing the situation would be more problematic with, for example, a 5-year-old, Brown noted.

Principal Elementary Darcy Uppena responded that anyone in 4-year-old kindergarten is supposed to have a parent with him or her at the bus stop, though Brown noted that, in practice, that doesn’t always happen.

Board member Doug Waterman said the district had to rely on parents to make the best decisions and “be honest and say the kids are sick or not sick.”

“We can sit here all night long and do what-ifs,” Waterman added. “We want our kids to be safe; we want our staff to be safe. But … kids need to be together. They need that interaction.”

Board president Raye Walz also suggested that the district require parents of coronavirus-infected students to supply letters from the Juneau County Health Department indicating that the student may return to school (if the quarantine is shorter than 14 days).

Also, board members noted that the health department would determine whether an entire classroom or part of a classroom should be quarantined if a child falls ill.

Other business

• The district’s new guidance counselor, Hailey Brown, will serve as senior adviser, junior varsity volleyball coach, and middle school girls basketball coach. Also, Kole Huth will be the head football coach, and Courtney Retzlaff will be the freshmen adviser.

• Brandon Donart was hired as a physical education teacher.

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