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District plans for COVID-19

ESCANABA — The Escanaba School Board approved a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan in Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The adopted plan lays out how the school administration will cope with the coronavirus across different phases of the Michigan Safe State Plan.

Each school in Michigan is required to create a plan before students go back to school, according to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-142. Escanaba followed a template created by the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA).

“The only approval required for this plan is board approval,” Superintendent Coby Fletcher told the school board Monday. “… You are the approving body here.”

In addition to creating a plan each school is required to connect with the local public health department. This helps schools tailor a plan to any local circumstances that may come up.

“This has been very lengthy in its process of development,” said Fletcher.

Every district collaborated to create their plans. Escanaba created four alternative modes of instruction, including Synchronous Remote Learning, Asynchronous Remote Learning, Hard Copies, and Combination. Which plan will be used will depend on which phase of the Mi Safe Start Plan the region is in when school is in session.

“We’d like people to take advantage of the Synchronous and Asynchronous Remote Learning, but where there’s a necessity, or where it’s just more age appropriate to provide hard copies, we will do that,” said Fletcher.

Fletcher said the district will do what it can to provide students access to internet.

In Phase 4, the district would require facial coverings for all students and staff except during meal times or for those individuals who cannot medically tolerate the wearing of a face covering.

Students will be expected to wear a mask sitting on a bus and when inside indoor hallways and common areas. Staff is expected to wear masks when in classrooms, and first through 12th graders will wear masks — unless instruction requires otherwise. All guests of the school will wear masks.

“We will expect students and families to provide masks. We will provide masks for our staff,” said Fletcher.

Fletcher said they recognize it won’t be easy for students to wear masks all day long.

“There are certain portions of the building that can get pretty hot, throughout the remainder of a school day. … We’re going to actively find ways to socially distance students on a regular basis, so kids aren’t having to have the mask on their face all the time,” said Fletcher.

Hygiene and cleaning costs are also increasing for the district as it combats transmission of COVID-19. The district will have hand sanitizer, wipes, soap, paper towels, tissues, and signs to reinforce proper hand-washing techniques. Sharing of supplies will be limited.

The school district will follow guidance from the Michigan High School Athletic Association regarding school athletics.

Parents will be asked to screen their children before they go to school. Any testing protocols will be recommended by Public Health – Delta Menominee Counties. Buses will be cleaned each morning before traveling their route and in between routes.

In other business the board:

— Hired Travis Polk as a math teacher at the junior/senior high school.

— Approved a two-month school calendar.

— Approved the continuation of the YMCA Before/After School Agreement for 2020-21.

The next meeting will be held 6 p.m., in the courtyard room at the Upper Elementary on Aug. 17.

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