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By ALLAN J. BASSLER
Publisher 

Cove Schools Hoping for 'Relatively Normal' Year

Some COVID-19 Mitigation Practices Have Been Dropped; Others Relaxed

 

August 5, 2021

Graphic courtesy of NBCSD

All of the Cove's school districts have prepared "safety and health plans" to manage COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Districts will make final adjustments to their plans at the school board meetings in August, before the start of classes. The plans are posted to each district's web sites for access by parents and the community.

With the start of school about three weeks away, Cove school districts are planning to continue with relaxed COVID-19 mask policies while continuing to perform enhanced cleaning and encouragement of hand washing.

School begins for students on Aug. 25 for all four Cove school districts.

The main difference among districts is that three districts are requiring masks to be worn on school buses while one district is not requiring masks to be worn on school buses.

The districts are planning to make the school year as "pre-COVID normal" as possible, according to the school officials contacted by the Herald.

All officials contacted said that state and federal rules related to COVID-19 restrictions are fluctuating and things could change before the start of the school year. Officials asked parents to check school district websites for updated information as the start of the school year approaches.

"With our entire COVID approach, in a nutshell, we're trying to do the things that make sense," said Northern Bedford County Schools Superintendent Todd Beatty. "We are cautious about 11th-hour recommendations that come down [from the government]. Our position is that we're not going to scramble, we're going to use common sense."

Other school district officials said that they were also applying recommendations with a dose of common sense.

"We'd like to start the year as normal as possible," said Claysburg-Kimmel School District Superintendent Darren McLaurin.

One area where the districts differ is requiring masks on school buses. The Northern Bedford County School District are not requiring masks on buses, but Claysburg-Kimmel School District and Spring Cove School District are.

Williamsburg Community Schools did not return a phone call by the Herald's deadline for this story, but the WCSD website shows that in the district's COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan, updated July 20, 2021, the district will "follow all mandates regarding face covering on public transportation including school buses and vans."

On Jan. 29, 2021, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that required face masks to be worn by all people while on public transportation. This definition of "public transportation" includes "all passengers and all personnel operating conveyances traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories."

The CDC website addresses the school bus matter directly, stating, "passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in CDC's order."

Northern Bedford Superintendent Beatty said, however, that while the district is aware of the CDC order, the district does not consider school buses to be "public transportation."

Supt. Beatty said that since school buses do not pick up or transport members of the public, the district does not think that the CDC rule applies. He also said that as long as the weather remains warm or mild, school buses with all the windows open are "open air" buses which do not fall under the CDC's public transportation mask mandate. The district's stand on masking on buses falls under its "common sense" policy, he said.

Gary M. Baranec

Matt Hall, the principal at Claysburg-Kimmel Elementary School, checks in boxes of new reading texts, the Wonder Reading Series, in preparation for the first day of classes, Aug. 25. Check out the Herald's Back to School edition next week to see homeroom listings and school schedules.

"So, you have kids on a bus wearing a mask, but as soon as they get off the bus, they're in hallways without masks?" he said. "That's the position that we're in. We're trying to stick to the ideas of common sense."

Supt. Betsy Baker of the Spring Cove School District said that the district will encourage social distancing among students but if the "community spread" of COVID-19 remains low, the social distancing requirement can gradually be reduced.

All districts said that they will continue to encourage students to practice good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing and sneezing into an elbow, not a hand. Parents will also be encouraged to keep a sick student at home.

Districts said that teachers will review district COVID-19 mitigation standards with students at the beginning of the year, reminding them of the reason for the importance of the rules.

All the districts have COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans posted to their websites, along with other related information for parents.

"We're hoping to have a relatively normal year," C-K Supt. McLaurin said.

 

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