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Woodward-Granger continues aim to open classrooms for first day

Sean Cordy - Correspondent
Woodward-Granger students get on a bus during the first day of school in 2019. The Woodward-Granger Community School District is working to finalize its "Return to Learn" plan. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/THE PERRY CHIEF

Though no plan has been formally enacted to re-open Woodward-Granger schools for the fall semester, one thing was abundantly clear: There is every intent to have students back in their classrooms.

“We’re at our best when our kids are in front of us,” Superintendent Dr. Matt Adams said during Monday’s school board meeting to address the district’s “Return to Learn” plan.

How that in-class will actually look with a start date of Aug. 24 is less certain. The next school board meeting Aug. 3 is the next opportunity to put forward specific protocol as more guidelines are put forth by the CDC and state departments.

“I really just ask we all do our best the next four to five weeks,” Adams said with hope to open the doors on Aug. 24 for the first day of the first semester.

Masks and Mitigation

Throughout the meeting, it was made clear the board has every intention to implement a mask policy for K-12 students, teacher and staff.

“Knowing that I want them in the schools, I’ll trade people wearing masks for having them in the school,” Adams said. “To be frank, I think that’s the trade.”

The board also discussed the potential to create mask-free zones and noted that they have “thousands” of masks to supply for students. A decision has yet to be drawn for cases in which students or staff may be unable to wear a mask for medical concerns. Clear face shields were mentioned as a potential alternative. Teachers may opt for the masks as well as to provide better visibility to students.

Class Atmosphere

In addition to wearing masks, the board also discussed ideas regarding interactions with students ranging from buses, classrooms, lunches and recess.

One strategy Adams said he’d like to implement is the “powerful tool” of cohort grouping — a concept gathered from the American Academy of Pediatrics’s COVID-19 study — which suggests students be kept in smaller groups of 5-10 whenever large social distancing is not possible.

This may also be implemented during passing periods and lunches. Possible solutions proposed are to create more lunch times and stagger passing periods to minimize free-flowing interactions. And to minimize touch-points, entryways will be limited as well.

That same concept has been applied for bus transportation. Families are asked to drive students to school if possible, but buses will be provided with assigned seating to arrange family groups and kept at two students per seat. Buses will be sanitized between drop-off times.

Remote Learning

Though the district stated intent to open the doors back up for in-person instruction, remote learning will be available upon parental request.

Adams noted how this could also benefit the situation at-large considering any number of students learning from home would create more distance for students in classrooms. This could potentially create the need for a number of teachers to work as online instructors as opposed to each teacher splitting time between in-class students and virtual learners.