Baldwin County school Superintendent Eddie Tyler released procedural details for students returning to brick-and-mortar schools Aug. 12, adding that more health and safety protocols will be released in the coming weeks.
Anticipating Gov. Kay Ivey’s amended “Safer at Home” order and statewide mask mandate will be extended past July 31, the school system is asking all students and staff to wear face coverings. Alternatives, such as face shields, will be provided for students with medical exemptions or special health needs. Students who do not comply will be encouraged and counseled to wear masks, and parents who oppose with no valid reason will be recommended to seek virtual school or home school options.
Masks will be provided for students who don’t have one, Tyler said. Students may bring their own personal and creative face masks, but they will be subject to the existing BCBOE uniform policy, allowing no inappropropriate, imagery, symbols or language. When the governor revises the current state health order, the school system will make changes to the face mask requirement as needed.
Tyler also provided updates on policies regarding transportation, nutrition, sanitation and social distancing. Acknowledging it’s “near impossible” to constantly follow social distancing guidelines in a school environment, Tyler admitted “there is risk involved” in returning to class, but, “I want to assure you parents, our 4,000 employees are doing everything possible to make sure when your students return, we have created the best and safest environment we can.”
Because of space constraints, teachers cannot space desks six-feet apart in most classrooms, Tyler said, but have been asked to do “the best they can” to separate students. Cafeterias will provide “grab-and-go” food options, and schools may provide more lunch waves for elementary schools or designated outside eating areas for middle and high schools.
Cafeterias and bathrooms will be sanitized several times a day, while buses will be sanitized after each trip in the morning and afternoon.
Tyler said “buses will be full,” but windows will open when weather permits, students will be encouraged to wear face masks, drivers will be required to wear face masks and each bus will be equipped with hand sanitizer. Parents with concerns about crowded buses should seek alternative transportation, he added.
Temperature checks will be performed in all schools, and any student or staff member registering a fever of 100.4 F and above will receive a follow-up visit from a nurse to investigate symptoms.
“I believe we have an excellent plan,” he said. “I’m just as certain we will not maintain standards every day and there will be instances where something doesn’t go right. Despite our best efforts, this is going to happen. But I remind you, you have a choice.”
Last week, Tyler announced all students will have the option of attending the county’s “virtual school” program, a home-based curriculum administered online. Previously, virtual school was only available to students in grades 6-12. While he didn’t provide exact numbers, Tyler said today enrollment in the virtual school program is up 10 percent over last year.
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