PRINCETON — North Gibson student will have two learning options when they return to school next month, according to a re-entry plan adopted by the school board in special session Monday.

Assistant superintendent Eric Goggins presented the plan to the school board, with the reminder it functions as a continuous working document. Changes to the timeline, or rules of Stage 5 of Governor Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana plan could impact North Gibson, as could the potential requirement of face masks.

The first option of the plan is in-school learning with social distancing guidelines to be followed. The second is a virtual learning option open to students with a physician-documented health issue or a family member in their household with a physician-documented health issue that would prevent them from returning.

The first day of school is set for Aug. 7.

Virtual learning

The virtual learning option includes an application that must be completed by a parent or guardian no later than July 31.

The guidelines created by the corporation re-entry team state participants must consider their internet connection, as well as parent/guardian commitment to supervision of learning when applying.

Students who take the virtual route must remain in that option until the end of a semester. Before returning to in-school learning, a physician will be required to certify it is safe for the student to do so.

Virtual learning students cannot participate in school sponsored extra-curricular or co-curricular activities. Elective options will be limited to high school students in virtual learning, and K-8 online instruction will be limited to the core subject areas.

Mask recommendations

Masks will be required while riding the bus to and from school, as well as school activities.

The re-entry plan states it is “strongly recommended” by the health department for students to wear masks or face coverings while at school. North Gibson is “strongly recommending” students wear face covers while in the following situations: entering and exiting the school building; in the hallways for restroom breaks and any other purpose; and while working in close proximity with other in the classroom or one-on-one with faculty and staff.

Staff will be wearing face coverings during those times. Goggins said if students are recommended to wear them, staff will have to lead by example during those times.

The corporation will provide each student with a face covering. The state will provide a traditional mask for each student, and North Gibson will provide two “Gator” style masks. Face masks must meet student dress code outlined in the handbooks.

“Hopefully students will find those (Gator masks) more appealing if they don’t want to wear the traditional mask,” Goggins said.

In-school social distancing

Students returning to school in the fall will have to follow CDC and Gibson County Health Department recommended practices on the school bus and in the buildings.

Teachers will have to remove all furniture other than student desks and chairs; teacher desks and chairs; and one small group table and chairs. All desks and chairs will forward face in the same direction.

“Foam in and foam out” will be encouraged as a part of classroom procedure, meaning students should use the hand sanitizer station in each room upon entering and leaving.

“We’re going to make that regular routine,” Goggins said.

In the hallways, markings will be placed to designate the six-feet of distancing. There will also be signage.

No water fountains will be accessible, so students will be allowed to bring a water bottle to school each day. The schools will have water for students who do not have it.

When possible, hallways will be designated for one-way traffic. Goggins said there will also be more monitoring of students in the halls.

“It’s important to keep kids moving and not congregating in those times,” he said.

The number of students allowed in a restroom at one time will be restricted. Urinals will also be closed as needed, such as every other being open, when partitioning isn’t possible.

Recess will be scheduled to reduce the number of students on the playground at one time, and playground equipment will be cleaned daily. Games such as basketball and soccer will be restricted so to not have student contact. Inclement weather recess will take place in the classroom.

Goggins said there will have to be some creativity on the school’s part to have staff for the increased recess times, but they are working on that to assure teachers still have their duty-free lunch period.

Other than mask requirements, students on a school bus will have an assigned seat for each trip. Siblings and household members will be seated together when possible.

The corporation is encouraging parents who are able to to bring students to and from school to help decrease the number on buses.

Morning entry to the buildings will not be allowed until 7:35 a.m. Students who do not eat breakfast are asked to arrive closer to 8 a.m. as is feasible for their guardian.

Bus riders and those arriving in a personal vehicle will enter in different locations.

Afternoon dismissal will have students leave in waves for the buses. Car riders will be staged as far apart as possible. During these times, face coverings are recommended.

School breakfast, as well as elementary school lunch, will be eaten in the classroom.

Middle school lunch will be be in the cafeteria with six feet of social distancing. High school lunch will follow the same guidelines, with students in the cafeteria or upper level of the gym.

Self-service lines will be discontinued and no visitors will be allowed to each lunch with students.

Gym class will have activities planned to encourage social distancing and locker room usage will be capped at 50% at one time. Middle school and high school students will not be required to dress out, but the appropriate footwear will be needed for participation.

Visitors will be limited to the office area of each building as much as possible. Meetings between an administrator, teacher or guidance counselor with parents/guardians must be scheduled in advance.

Goggins said he knows the visitor restrictions will not be popular, but the committee felt it was necessary. It’s harder to know of a visitor’s interactions prior to walking through the door, he said.

Symptoms screening

Each student will be required to have their temperature checked before leaving home. Any student with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher has to stay home until fever-free for 72 hours.

Students should also say home if experiencing other symptoms like coughing or vomiting.

Goggins said the health department recommended this route, as opposed to the school checking temperatures upon entry. It cuts down on congestion and the potential for a backup of students at the door.

Any student diagnosed with COVID-19 will have to have at least 10 days pass since symptoms appeared or two negative COVID-19 tests results at least 24 hours apart; experience 72 hours with no fever; and note from a medical provider before returning.

Students with a household member who tests positive will be required to isolate for school 14 days before returning.

A holding area for students exhibiting symptoms will be created separate from the regular nursing area.

Needs such as bandages will be addressed in the classroom. Students who take medication in the nurse’s office will do so on a scheduled basis to prevent large groups.

Nursing staff will follow a decision tree from the Indiana State Department of Health to determine if a student can stay at school or needs to go home.

The board approved the plan unanimously. Board president Mike Ice called the plan well thought out and well researched.

“A year from now we hope this is an extinct plan,” he said. “We really do.”

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