The Madison-Grant school board approved the district’s reopening of schools plan at its regular meeting Monday, outlining policy and procedures for returning to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Scott Deetz said school administrators and other stakeholders worked closely with the Indiana Department of Education and the Madison and Grant county health departments to develop the plan.

Deetz said Madison-Grant’s plan includes three phases, red, yellow and green, which correspond to the level of COVID-19 spread in the community at a given time. According to the plan, red represents a substantial spread, yellow represents a minimal/moderate spread and green represents low/no spread.

M-G will begin its school year in the yellow phase, Deetz said. As the year goes on, the district will reassess whether it is necessary to move to more restrictive practices with the red phase or ease restrictions to the green phase on the advisement of state and local health departments.

As part of the yellow phase, students and families can elect to attend school in-person each day or engage in full-time remote learning, with all students beginning a normal school day schedule five days a week starting Aug. 7. A hybrid option will be available for students to go to remote learning for a short period of time if their situation necessitates it, such as a family member in their home testing positive for COVID-19.

A potential red phase would include all students going to remote learning and/or targeted, short-term or extended closures of buildings, the plan states, and the green phase would transition all students back to traditional in-person instruction.

Yellow phase actions for school buildings include shutting down water fountains, reconfiguring the cafeteria and using additional classrooms to social distance during meal times, decreasing capacities of certain rooms, adding hand sanitizing stations and signs encouraging good hygiene and social distancing, staggering recess times so limited numbers of students are on the playground at a time, large classes like band and choir meeting in the auditorium regularly and enhanced and vigorous cleaning protocols for each building and school bus daily, Deetz said.

According to Deetz, students will not be required to wear masks, but it is strongly recommended they do so, especially while riding the bus and during passing periods. All employees are encouraged to wear masks, but bus drivers and cafeteria workers will be required to do so.

Deetz said any changes to the mask policies would most likely be made due to a change from the governor’s office or local county health departments. While they are not mandated district-wide, M-G has purchased face masks for every employee and student, he said.

All employees and students with their parents will be encouraged to conduct self health check screenings each day before entering the school buildings. According to the plan, individuals should screen for a fever of 100.4 or greater; a cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; chills; muscle pain, headache or sore throat; new loss of taste or smell; or skin lesions on feet and toes and not enter school buildings if any symptoms are present.

“Additionally, our staff will be trained to not only look for signs or understand the signs of COVID-19 not only with kids but as part of our community we will also make sure that we are assessing through observation of our colleagues as well, so if anybody were to show signs of possibility of COVID-19 then there are protocols that we follow,” Deetz said. “Please keep in mind this plan is a fluid plan from the standpoint that if we get additional input from our local health departments or Gov. Holcomb’s office we must comply with those directives and guidance put into place.”

The board asked what protocol would be in place for substitute teachers, and Deetz said all subs will be trained in M-G’s protocols by the company the district contracts with for substitutes. They will be expected to self-screen and follow all other district guidelines.

As athletic practices continue to move forward this month, the board asked what restrictions would be in place for spectators at sporting events. For now, Deetz said visitors will be encouraged to social distance with their families.

“We’ll educate people to sit apart from each other, different families from each other, but with our gym and its capacity we shouldn’t have too much of an issue getting people to be able to distance,” he said. “We felt we had a pretty good run at our high school graduation this year (at the football field)...So we put yellow caution tape every other row to keep the rows separated and then every six feet we put a six foot strip of caution tape so a family had room to sit but then could gauge how far to sit from other people.”

Deetz said Madison-Grant was fortunate to have “twice the resources” in formulating its plan through working with both the Madison and Grant county school districts and health departments. He said more detailed information for families of each school building will be forthcoming.

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