Masks, presence at school mandatory

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Granville Central School District building on Quaker Street

School superintendent Tom McGurl has informed the Granville Board of Education and community of updated protocols, regulations and the district’s reopening plan for this fall, which will require masks for everyone and no remote instruction.

“Masks at all times is the current advice,” McGurl said at a school board meeting on Aug. 9. “If we’re looking at getting kids into school and keeping kids in school under the current guidance and regulations of quarantining, masks (on at all times) is the option. If you have that mask on appropriately while sitting there, you will not be quarantined.”

The school district is following guidance from the state Department of Health and recommendations from Washington County Public Health, Granville administration and staff, Granville medical providers, Needham Risk Management and The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance documents, McGurl said.

Vaccinations are not mandated for students or employees but are encouraged by the district.

When school is in session, McGurl said, all occupants of the building are required to wear a mask 100% of the time with classrooms spaced out at a three-foot social-distance.

McGurl informed the board that any and all direction is subject to change to more or less restriction depending on the status of the coronavirus in Washington County.

“We are seeing an uptick in the community, we are seeing an uptick in the county, our neighboring counties are seeing significant upticks in cases,” McGurl said.

“Evidence would show that there is an uptick and the takeaway from our meeting today (Aug. 9 with the Washington County superintendents and Washington County Public Health), and I’m not being dramatic, that more young people are getting sick and the people that they are seeing sick are getting more sick than they were in the first round of this last year.”

Designed mask breaks will be instituted throughout the school day and masks will not be required to be worn at lunchtime when eating.

“(In the) cafeteria, students will not be required to wear their masks when seated. We will not make you chew your chicken nugget and then put your mask on while you chew it,” McGurl said.

“Students will have three-foot spacing. If there is an exposure… what they’re looking to do is draw about a six-foot bubble around that person, so they will have assigned seats, to see who is within that range with masks off while they are eating, and it would be quite possible that those people would be on quarantine. But it wouldn’t be the whole cafeteria being quarantined or six tables around the area. More likely than not it would be within that bubble. The whole goal is to keep kids in school.”

A significant change to be noted would be the conclusion of self-select remote-learning. Unless quarantined, students will be expected to be in-person for instruction.

“As a district, we passionately believe that students learn best while in class with our professional and extremely talented educators. It is vital, not only for their educational growth, but also their social and emotional health. This applies to our staff as well,” McGurl said on Aug. 16. “We did not go into this profession to instruct students on a screen. Daily in-person contact with our students provides feedback, validation and a professional satisfaction that remote learning simply cannot accomplish.”

Getting kids back to school means the need for transportation. Daily bus runs will be reduced from multiple runs to one at full capacity.

“Transportation, busses will return to full capacity. Windows will be open when possible, so obviously when you’re in the dead of winter, you’re not going to have windows open,” McGurl said on Aug. 9. “Assigned seats will be required, and all of this will be going out to the community shortly.

“Parent transportation is encouraged because obviously if we can lower the number of people on the bus, we can spread people on the bus more, but if parents can’t transport, we will be transporting on the bus. All riders and staff must wear masks 100% of the time. That is a requirement and it’s not any different than it was last year.”

Indoor sports will see masks on both participants and spectators while outdoor sports will not require but encourage mask use for spectators that are not vaccinated. A 50% capacity limit on spectators for indoor sports is in place.

“Extra-curricular clubs will be active as normal,” McGurl said on Aug. 16. “Field trips will be considered on a case-by-case basis but may be limited if significant travel is required.”

Granville will continue to take safety measures seriously by disinfecting and cleaning as often as possible.

“The district will continue regular cleaning and disinfection daily or more frequently, as needed, along with frequent cleaning and disinfection of shared objects and surfaces as well as high transit areas, such as restrooms and public areas,” McGurl said on Aug. 16. “Classrooms will be disinfected as necessary. High volume touch points will be disinfected frequently throughout the day as well as each night.”

The primary products used will be EPA-approved disinfectants, disinfecting mist/fogger, disinfecting sprays and surface wipes.

“Use of hand sanitizer and the practice of good hygiene will be taught and encouraged,” McGurl said. “All staff and students will have access to PPE as needed.”

Although vaccinations are not required, they are strongly encouraged but they do not abstain an individual from mask use.

“If you are vaccinated, you do not have to quarantine unless you are symptomatic,” McGurl said.

Board member John Troy made a motion, which was approved, to have McGurl look into the possibility of Granville schools hosting a vaccination clinic for individuals aged 12 and older in the near future.

The county is in talks of potentially developing a screening plan to test for COVID-19, but McGurl noted in his press release that this would not be completed until mid-to-late September.

“I think it would be ill-advised to not follow the recommendations of (Washington County) Public Health, the CDC, what I anticipate to be our school doctor, but I haven’t heard back from him yet but I expect to tomorrow (Aug. 10). I think we need to follow the advice of our health people.”