Returning to school: Tahquamenon Area Schools prepares safety plans for students, faculty

Eastern UP

NEWBERRY, Mich. (WJMN) – In just over a month, students are expected to return to the classrooms at Tahquamenon Area Schools (TAS). With students coming back in the midst of a pandemic, this means faculty must prepare safety measures and a plan to keep everyone safe.

TAS Superintendent and principal Stacy Price sent out a survey to parents, staff, and students to receive input on what their needs and questions are. 360 people responded to the survey.

The top concern was what kind of safety protocols were going to be put into place.

“Number one was that they wanted enhanced cleaning in the district and of the classrooms,” said Price. “The second was having the availability of hand sanitizer almost anywhere you went in the district. Third, was having staff trained on CDC guidelines as well as our local health department guidelines. Because our local health department can make more strict guidelines compared to the CDC. Fourth, was temperature screening, having the availability for staff and students. And the fifth one was working into our day handwashing and making sure the students were well-trained in what that is.”

Other concerns were in regard to stagnant class schedules, spacing in classrooms, and face mask availability/requirements.

An issue Price is seeing is the availability of cleaning supplies and making sure they arrive by the time school begins on Tuesday, September 8.

TAS will also need to provide a cleaning coordinator during school hours and after-school hours. Price said this will require hiring another full-time custodian.

An unstable budget is also a factor creating a plan, said Price, due to the unknown costs that may come up as they go into the school year.

“There’s an additional cost, and some of it I don’t even know yet until we actually get in and get moving I think to where we know the impact of what those other costs are going to be.”

Many parents have expressed keeping their children at home to learn instead of returning to the classroom. Price said the schools will provide an online learning platform. The plan is still up in the air on how that will be provided, however, it leads to another issue: broadband connectivity.

“We definitely have to plan for the fact that what happened to us last March it definitely might happen to us again coming at the end of October, beginning of November. The hard part is is that we have a lot of people, especially up here, that connectivity is not something that’s easily accessible.”

Although the feeling of being overwhelmed, Price said she wants her teachers to be mentally prepared for this upcoming school year and keep the students safe.

“We’re the foundation of education, the foundation of our workforce moving forward. We’re the foundation of a lot of things. That hasn’t changed. We need to keep the eye on the ball that we need to keep our kids socially, emotionally healthy and we need to keep them educationally healthy.”

Schools in the state of Michigan are required to have their safety plans approved by August 15 according to Governor Whitmer’s “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap”.

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