Schools going back in-person must navigate many logistical hurdles

For schools that decide to have in-person classes this fall, there are tons of small logistical decisions that come with that move.

Should lunch be in the cafeteria or in the classroom? How will schools manage change of classes? Can kids use the playground equipment? Is it safe to have music or choir groups?

In June, Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen called those logistical steps the biggest obstacle in the return-to-school process.

** Lunch: Most schools’ restart plans agree on a few approaches — assigned seating, mask-wearing in the lunch line and no self-serve food. Oakwood, Miamisburg and Dayton Regional STEM School say in restart plans that students can buy “box lunches” or “sack lunches” with more limited items.

Carroll High School says students will eat lunch in classrooms rather than a large cafeteria. At Oakwood, elementary school students will eat in their classrooms, while older students “will still be encouraged to eat outdoors (stadium, portico, courtyard, front steps, etc.) or at home when conditions are conducive.” Additional lunch seating will be available in gyms.

** Music: Greene County Public Health recommended having no in-person choirs or choruses, saying, “Singers are at a very high risk for transmission for COVID-19 because of the amount of aerosols potentially generated.” Beavercreek schools are now studying how to offer music classes without singing.

The Montgomery County health department had earlier this summer said only that singers should “maintain as much distance as possible,” then recommended Friday that band and choir activities be halted.

** Spacing: Health officials have generally urged schools to spread students out “as much as possible” but have stopped short of mandating six-foot social distancing. Some schools are making hallways one-way traffic or allowing extra time for change of classes so kids can spread out.

Bellbrook schools’ plan states the issue very simply — “Returning to school at 100% capacity will make 6 foot social distance very difficult.”

Brookville schools’ plan still called for 22-26 students to a classroom with “maximum distancing when possible.” The district said larger spaces like libraries and cafeterias could be used for classes if needed.

Xenia schools said given imperfect options, parents can start helping now by reinforcing safe distancing steps with their children and practicing those skills at home before school starts.

** Recess: As with lunch, districts agree on a few points — students should wash or sanitize their hands before and after recess, and some “high-touch” playground equipment will be off-limits.

Some schools will require masks during recess. Fairborn schools say staff will structure play that encourages social distancing, and masks/ will be optional at recess “if social distancing can be followed & monitored.”

** Getting supplies: Schools have ordered extra masks, hand sanitizer, computers and many other supplies. But anyone who has ordered products online in recent weeks knows some things arrive quickly and others don’t.

“We have not received all of the Chromebooks that we have ordered. This is a problem everywhere due to the supply chain,” West Carrollton schools told families recently. “We feel confident that we can provide devices to everyone that needs a device, but we are still waiting on our current orders to arrive.”

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