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Education in a COVID world

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Area schools announce their back to school plans

HARTINGTON — Area school administrators have all released very similar plans for re-opening school this fall.

Cedar Catholic and Hartington-Newcastle closed their school doors last spring with 77 days left in the school year and went to distance learning. Wynot also stopped in-person learning in the spring.

All area schools plan to use a color-coded system to assess the COVID-19 risk level here when they reopen this month.

Wynot will open for the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 12. Hartington-Newcastle and Cedar Catholic both plan to reopen Aug. 17.

Cedar Catholic announced its reopening plans via a video from Principal Chris Uttecht.

The four-tiered color system ranges from green to red, with green being the best and red the worst.

Everything will be considered normal in the green stage and in-person classes will be held with only social distancing required.

If it is determined a school is in the yellow or moderate risk zone, in-person learning will still be held but extra precautions will be made. Those precautions could include anything from wellness screenings and temperature checks to the use of masks.

During the yellow stage, Cedar Catholic and Holy Trinity students will be required to wear face coverings upon entering school, and while they are in the hallways, Uttecht said. However, he said, students would be allowed to remove their masks, when seated at desks and during lunch, PE and recess

At Wynot, the orange, or high risk tier, will mean an alternate attendance schedule may be put in place where only a certain number of students attend classes each day, while the rest of the student body does remote learning.

Cedar Catholic will make some major changes if the Orange level is hit here.

“It is at the orange level that things switch and a hybrid learning system is introduced, reducing the number of students in school by approximately 50 percent,” Uttecht said.

If the school is in the orange zone, students will be scheduled by family to attend school two days a week, and work from home three days a week. During this time, masks would be required at school, at all times, except during lunch, PE and recess, Uttecht said.

The red, or severe stage, will mean the school will once again go into a distance-learning only mode.

Lunch time will look different no matter what color stage a school is in this year,

Many students will have their meals delivered to the classroom so the students can eat at their desks.

Any students who do eat in the lunchroom will have to follow strict guidelines, including social distancing.

Uttecht said his top priority is to safely educate the students.

“Our primary goal in developing this plan is to keep our schools open and reduce the chances of having to transition to remote learning, or to exclude a large number of students, due to illness or quarantine,” he said. “Any of the precautions or recommendations from national, state and local health officials will be implemented based upon the current risk level of our area.”

HNS Supt. A.J. Johnson said all of the plans for reopening HNS have not been firmly put in place, but that should happen this week.

Johnson said one of the priorities in putting together a COVID-19 plan is to try and mirror as much as possible the plan of Cedar Catholic/Holy Trinity.

“We are going to work very hard to do the same things that Cedar does,” Johnson said. “We share so many classes and bus routes it will just make things so much easier that way.”

Johnson said the goal is to make sure the new COVID-19 rules are safe for all involved, yet simple to understand and follow.

“The more things we can do together the better,” he said. “It will really help to avoid confusion if we can do things the same as much as possible.”

Johnson said he plans to meet with bus drivers this week to discuss bus routes.

“We may add a route or two, just to alleviate the numbers on a couple routes,” he said.

The plan is to have special seating charts for the busses to make sure everyone is properly spaced out and students from the same family sit together.

Both Johnson and Uttecht agreed that if the schools have to go back to remote learning, it will look a lot different than it did in the spring when schools were forced at the last minute to come up with a new way to educate students.

“Our teachers have worked all summer to create remote learning plans that are more consistent, and improve communication with teachers, students and families,” Uttecht said. “Now, it’s my hope that we don’t reach the red level and do not have to transition to remote learning, but we do want to be prepared.”

School extra curricular activities are being planned as of now, as well.

The Nebraska School Activities Association met Monday and reaffirmed they plan to go full-steam ahead with the fall sports season.

The NSAA allowed for schools to begin practicing for the fall sports seasons Aug. 10.

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