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Columbiana school restart a work in progress

COLUMBIANA–As summer dwindles away, school districts across the country are working tirelessly to plan the upcoming school year. With the COVID-19 pandemic on everyone’s mind, students and parents are eager to see their school district release a plan. The reality is that while tentative plans have been discussed at length, the situation is a moving target.

Each time Gov. DeWine updates the state on new protocol and regulations, the school districts look for more clarity. However, with the school year getting closer, there is nothing clear about the situation. When Superintendent Don Mook shared some broad plans to the school board at Tuesday’s meeting, he emphasized that there are still a lot of details that are unknown.

“I hate to tell you this, but it’s still a moving target,” Mook said. “I would describe it like a grandfather clock with a pendulum moving back and forth. We’re trying to jump on it at a certain point and stay stuck to it. Unfortunately, it continues to change.”

Mook has met with county Health Commissioner Wes Vins weekly, along with county superintendents to discuss plans and collaborate on what school will look like in the fall.

In the plan that Mook presented to the board, one of the main goals was to identify the level of risk in each building. The district plans to do this by using a health risk chart, as defined by the governor’s office and department of health.

There are four levels of risk on the chart from lowest risk to highest risk: yellow, orange, red and purple. Mook emphasized that the county is at yellow (level one) right now, but the district would narrow down the levels of risk for each Columbiana school building during the year. Just because the county is yellow doesn’t mean the community or school buildings can’t be orange. Similarly, if the county is orange, the community and school buildings could be yellow.

“This chart allows us to identify, with some flexibility, what level of risk is existing in each one of our buildings, the community and the county,” Mook said.

In the event of in-person, normal learning, the district has prepared daily health precautions and assessments to ensure students are maintaining good hygiene practices to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

For example, the district has purchased hand sanitizing stations and scanning machines that will be able to scan a students’ temperature and recommend them to wear a mask. Mook also said they will be implementing hand-washing stations. He believes the measures to maintain cleanliness will remain relevant even after the duration of the pandemic.

Mook also believes facial coverings will be a very key aspect of a successful in-person classroom experience. The district is prepared to provide masks and plastic face shields if necessary. Mook said they received about 1,000 facemasks from the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and 1,300 face shields from the county EMA.

“Not to be cliche, but if we’re going to be successful, we have to be in it together,” Mook said. “Staff, administration, students, parents and community members have to look out for one another. It would be a good first start if we can get back in at a low level of risk and get things as close to normal as we can given the situation.”

Mook said that the district will release its plan to the public within the next week. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 25.

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