GALLIPOLIS — The Gallipolis City School District, in collaboration with the Gallia County Health Department and Holzer Health Systems, held a live “Back to School” virtual forum Tuesday evening on the district’s Facebook page.
Melissa Davis, Holzer’s director of marketing and communications, served as moderator to a panel including Gallipolis City Schools Superintendent Craig Wright, Green Elementary Principal Corey Luce, Tyler Schweickart of the Gallia County Health Department, and Holzer pediatricians Dr. Danielle Cappelletti and Dr. Jonathan Mathis.
Each of the panelists discussed their respective roles in the return to school.
Wright talked about the changes to the school year, and what the Gallipolis City School District is doing to be ready for any situation.
“We’re offering two different options, online learning and in school with protocols five days a week,” Wright said. “Currently we have about 665 students signed up for online learning, and that makes up about 31 percent of our student population. With the online learning, we’re offering Chromebooks to students in need of technology.
“Our classrooms will be different. We’ll be ensuring social distancing, there will be sanitation stations in each of our classrooms, some of our classrooms will have barriers and others will have fiberglass dividers.”
Wright added that all of the students have online learning already set up, in case a transition between the two options is necessary.
Luce talked about the typical day in the life of a student.
“First and foremost, we want our children to feel safe and enjoy school,” Luce said. “We plan to educate our students on what it means to practice good social distancing, proper masking…and we commit to cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces inside and outside the building as often as possible.”
Parents are asked to take their child’s temperature before school, and keep them home if they have a temperature of 100.4-or-higher, they have COVID-19 related symptoms, or they’re not feeling well.
Changes in the school building include directional signs, signs with hand washing and proper hygiene advice, and tape to ensure social distancing. There will be multiple lunch periods to help with social distancing. Face coverings are required for all students when social distancing isn’t possible.
If a student is sent to the nurse, a health assessment will be done and any student with symptoms of COVID-19 will be sent home. Each building will have its own quarantine area for students with symptoms of COVID-19. Also, visitors to the school are limited, and field trips are on hold.
On the bus, students will be riding 1-or-2 students per seat, and face coverings will be required at all times. Students will eat breakfast in their classrooms, and have routine hand-washing. Pickup times at the end of the day will also be staggered.
Schweickart talked about the current status of Gallia County with COVID-19, and how it relates to school.
“The ultimate goal is to mitigate risk as much as possible,” Schweickart said. “With school returning five days a week, that decisions made based on the date we currently have in the county.
“There’s going to be inherent risk in almost anything we do now a days. All we can do, and especially the health department, the hospital setting, and the local schools, is to mitigate that risk as much as possible.”
Schweickart also noted the health department is looking at the rise in cases individually in order to make the best possible decisions.
Dr. Cappelletti gave tips for parents to help students with the transition back to school.
“Many of the kids want to go back to school,” Dr. Cappelletti said. “I really think a lot of the kids think they’re going to go back to school and it’s going to be the same as it was when they left in March, so just renew with them how their day is going to change and how it will be the same.”
Dr. Cappelletti also demonstrated proper mask usage, and gave advice for parents of students going fully or partial remote, making sure students are still on a proper schedule, have some sort of exercise, and have a place exclusively for school work.
Dr. Mathis discussed the impact on students’ mental and emotional health.
“I think the first step is to really know your child,” Dr. Mathis said. “Every conversation is going to be different from parent-to-parent, from family-to-family, so it’s important to meet your child, where they are developmentally.”
Dr. Mathis urges parents to ask their children what they know about COVID-19, so that you’ll have a starting block. Dr. Mathis also added that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and healthychildren.org are good resources for parents to gain accurate information regarding COVID-19.
Among topics discussed in the question and answer portion of the forum were the return of sports, music and art education, class changes, the attendance policy, the connectivity grant, what statistics the district is watching, additional nursing staff, and restrictions on volunteers.
The entire hour-long forum can be viewed on the Gallipolis City School District’s Facebook page.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.