Blair Community Schools Supt. Randy Gilson is hopeful classes can resume at full attendance and as normal as possible when the school reopens Aug. 19.
But he's also realistic, realizing the district will need to plan for every circumstance as the situation with the coronavirus pandemic is fluid.
“It could change and it might be more difficult for us to social distance,” Gilson said. “Hopefully, we won't have to remote learn, but I would like to make that an option.”
Gilson said the district has used the limited summer activities, including the opening of the high school weight room and the Blair Kids Academy, as an opportunity to test plans for social distancing in classrooms and for other activities such as camps and open gyms, which will be allowed July 1.
Gilson planned to share a school reopening plan with administrators.
“Once the plan is turned over to the administrators, I'm really looking for them to work with their teachers on making the plans work or modifying the plan for each building,” he said.
There are many facets to the plan the district will have to look at for reopening, including entrances and exits. Gilson said they may have to look at staggered drop off times for K-2 schools and multiple entrances.
“Transportation is the big question. What are the requirements?” he said. “Some bus routes are full, others aren't so full so we do have some space that we'll look at adding some routes. The challenge is drivers.”
Another questions is the requirement of students to wear masks while in class.
“I'm just hoping that we aren't required to wear masks, that it's optional,” Gilson said. “There are going to be circumstances where we're probably going to have to ask staff to wear masks.”
In a survey sent to parents in which 985 had responded as of Friday, 350 out of 985 parents said they were not comfortable or agreeable to their child wearing a mask at school. That represented 649 out of the 2,108 students.
“A pretty high number,” Gilson said.
There were 116 parents, representing 198 students, who weren't planning to send their children to school under the current circumstances.
“That's the one that we're going to need to be real flexible to meet the needs of all of our learners under different circumstances, whether it's in school or if some choose to remote learn,” Gilson said.
The survey remains open until Thursday. Gilson said he would like to hear from every parent “because we want to accommodate any unique needs that they might have whether they are sending their kids to school or not.”
Gilson said he believes the district can social distance in the classrooms, which would keep students from having to wear masks.
“We think we can social distance 18 to 20 in a classroom with the size of our rooms, and our class sizes aren't much bigger than that,” he said.
Administrators are also working on class sizes for Arbor Park Intermediate School and Otte Blair Middle School to allow for social distancing.
“It will look different in a classroom, but I really think we can get about 20 in a room, 18 would be ideal, with 6 foot apart,” he said.
Gilson plans to present a plan, which would address multiple reopening scenarios and contingencies to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all students and staff, to the BCS Board of Education at a July 13 work session prior to the regular board meeting.
Gilson also plans to create ad hoc committees in major topics such as transportation, food services and safe hygiene practices. He hopes to have parents be a part of those committees.
“I want to be able to communicate a lot with parents in July so they know what directions we're going,” he said.