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Marietta BOE approves fall re-entry plan

Marietta City Schools Board of Education approved its coronavirus fall re-entry plan for students and staff Monday.

“None of this is perfect, it’s the best we can do with what we know and what we have,” said Superintendent Will Hampton.

Families will have two options per 9-week quarters, in the classroom four out of every 10 weekdays, or fully remote for the quarter.

“Friday will be a day for teacher planning and prep(aration). We will also use Fridays to thoroughly clean our facilities,” reads the approved plan. “As much as we understand the importance of having all of our students in school every day, the guidelines and expectations presented make this impossible for MCS to execute safely.”

“Because of the concentration we have… the density. We have a lot more people in a smaller place,” said Hampton. “The possibility of that spreading is much more likely here than it is in more remote settings.”

Hampton acknowledged that while other school districts in Washington County intend to return to in-person instruction for five days a week, the concentration and density of the county seat necessitates a different solution to prevent rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the city school district.

Board Member Stacey Hall also noted the continuous work and approval process required to reopen with the blessing of the Marietta-Belpre Health Department during the pandemic.

“The volume of students and the design of our facilities presents limitations which we cannot reasonable overcome,” the plan continues. “To achieve the social distancing required, we simply must reduce the number of students in our facilities.

But all students will begin the year of instruction on Aug. 19, with the first three days for every student online.

Then on Aug. 24 students will begin an alternating in-person/remote learning schedule with four days per week of instruction.

Families may choose not to send their student(s) under the alternating schedule.

But if a child is enrolled as a remote student, that option will be permanent for the full quarter, nine weeks, of instruction.

The resolution also closes all of the school’s assets to any form of rental, though the board did not address its use of the Armory gymnasium, which it has a long-term lease for use from the city of Marietta.

The plan also outlines that if Washington County again rises to a Level 2: Orange on the state health alert system for coronavirus, random temperature checks of students and staff will begin.

If Washington County were to reach a Level 4: Purple level, the highest alert on the Ohio system, the board awarded the authority of the superintendent to determine which school employees are essential for the function of the district during building closure.

“Further, the board authorizes the superintendent to make any changes in scheduling or work locations for district employees as necessary to comply with the (Ohio) Department of Health’s public health orders.

Other highlights include:

-Classrooms are to be disinfected nightly.

-Restrooms are to be cleaned and disinfected at least once every two hours.

– Bus drivers must disinfect bus seats immediately after their morning route and either immediately after their afternoon route or prior to making their morning route.

– Masks will be required on all students riding the bus, regardless of age.

– Masks will be required for all staff.

“If you have a bonafide reason you cannot wear a mask you need to contact me,” said Hampton.

-Masks will be required on all students in grades 3 and above.

– Paper or cloth masks will be encouraged for kindergarten through second grade.

Board Member Mark Duckworth was the only vote against the resolution with members Russ Garrison, Doug Mallett, Stacey Hall and Bill Hutchinson all voting in favor of the reopening plan.

The board also scheduled a special board meeting for Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss both the proposed bond issue for a single campus building project, and consideration of a new emergency levy option in addition to the ballot this November. Neither option is yet fully approved through all of the required steps to appear on the general election ballot yet, options are to be discussed Thursday.

Hampton also noted that of the more than 500 comments made by the public, including several questions, many had similar themes and he promised to attempt consolidation of those questions for answers at the special meeting.

Questions covered concerns single working parent households, dual-income households, access to internet, streaming services while students are at home and questions of medical guidance for air circulation in the districts’ aged buildings.

Duckworth also asked that the administration address the 20-page document of submitted questions from staff following their briefing at 3 p.m. Monday on the announced plan.

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