Wednesday, 05 August 2020 21:33

Richmond County School nursing staff, administration discuss protocols for upcoming school year

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Richmond County School nursing staff, administration discuss protocols for upcoming school year Courtesy: Therafirm

HAMLET — School personnel on Tuesday outlined to the Richmond County Board of Education on Tuesday just what the upcoming school year will look like — amidst the COVID-19 pandemic — when students return Aug. 17.

“We’ll be screening everyone before they come in the door,” said Lindsay Stubbs, school nurse and COVID resource nurse.

Before faculty and staff can clock in, they’ll have to first answer three questions:

  • Have you had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19? (exposure is defined as within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes)
  • Do you have any symptoms? (including fever, chills, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, cough or congestion)
  • Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Anyone who answers “yes” will be sent to the nurse and sent home.

Everyone will also have their temperature — which must be 100.4 or lower — checked with a temporal thermometer.

Stubbs said Richmond County Schools purchased 200 temporal thermometers and the district was provided with 76 additional thermometers by the state.

She added that social distancing will be enforced, with reminders on the floors and in the hallways.

Lead Nurse Leslie Hall said face coverings will be required unless an exemption note is provided by a doctor or behavioral health professional. The self-contained exceptional children will not need a note, she added.

The district will be providing a number of masks, with a recent donation of more than 16,000 from local textile manufacturer Therafirm.

Hall said the state has sent the district a two-month supply of personal protective equipment — including gowns, masks and face shields — which will be worn by nursing staff and those caring for students and staff with symptoms.

The county also helped to supplement PPE, so the district has plenty “right now,” she added.

Hall went on to say that proper hand washing will be taught — including by instructional videos — and encouraged and there will be a sanitizing station in each classroom as well as stations throughout the campus.

Custodians will be cleaning throughout the day with a special emphasis on high-touch areas, such as door knobs and light switches, she continued. And teachers will have a caddy of cleaning supplies so they can clean as needed.

Students who show symptoms will be isolated from the rest and “we will try to get them out of the building as quickly as possible,” Hall said.

The district will also track any student who shows symptoms with software that will indicate the date the students can return, according to Hall.

The Richmond County Health Department will also be contacted to determine the level of exposure and who will need to be notified.

Dr. Wendy Jordan, student services director, said the school system has a great working relationship with the Health Department.

“We can call them at any time and they’re very responsive,” she said.

In addition to the precautions already mentioned, Jordan said there will be signs throughout the schools describing symptoms pictorially and how to stop the spread of germs, as well as several instructional videos.

Jordan said water fountains have either been covered or cut off.

She also discussed the tool kits provided by the state on what to do in certain situations. 

Board member Daryl Mason asked if students who are exempt from wearing masks will be isolated in the classroom away from the other kids.

“How are teachers expected to handle that situation?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t know that we have given that complete thought,” Jordan replied.

She added that the E.C. students will be different and reminded the board that documentation from a health professional will be required for an exemption.

“The classrooms are not going to be as full, so maybe (there’s) a special spot at the back of the room,” she suggested. I think we’ll have to see what those numbers look like and that may have to be an additional conversation. We hope it’s not that many.”

Dr. Kate Smith discusses the number of families opting for remote learning and the transition of sixth- through 12th-grade students back into the classroom. (William R. Toler - RO)

Dr. Kate Smith, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said that the system has received more than 1,400 virtual applications, following the board’s decision last month to allow parents to opt their kindergarten through fifth-grade children out of face-to-face instruction.

She added that the fourth- and fifth-grade students will remain at the elementary schools and not be placed in the middle schools as originally planned.

“That was very comforting and exciting for the teachers and the students,” she said.

According to Smith, the 50% capacity rule for the classroom has been lifted, with the requirement being to maintain six feet of social distancing, which will allow for more students to be in the room.

Smith said the schools recently met to decide which teacher would be in the classroom, which would be virtual and which would be a hybrid of both types of learning.

She also talked about transitioning the sixth- through 12th-graders back into the classroom, depending on how many virtual learners there are in the lower grades, saying “it looks promising.”

At the end of the first nine weeks, the K-5 students will be able to decide if they’d like to remain remote or return to the classroom.

Another obstacle for phasing in the upper-grade students is transportation, as only one child is allowed per seat on the bus.

During the meeting, the board also approved several policies, including several related to a federal sexual harassment law that goes into effect Aug. 14; and contracts related to maintenance, federal programs and the Exceptional Children Department.