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USC, BEA gear up for start of school

By Staff | Aug 9, 2020

The Blue Earth Area School District will announce their plans for reopening school this fall during the week of Aug. 24.

Although it appears the United South Central School District intends to begin the school year with in-person learning this fall. It is not an official decision yet.

“There are still a couple of steps to take before we can officially say we will have in-person learning,” USC School Board chairman Dale Stevermer said.

Likewise, BEA superintendent Mandy Fletcher said the data looked good for BEA being able to open with in-person learning, but the final decision will be made the week of Aug. 24.

“The decision of which model we follow to have school is affected by the COVID-19 county case rate per 10,000 people over a 14-day period,” Fletcher explained at a BEA School Board work session held Thursday, Aug. 6. “Right now the number looks favorable for reopening, but that number can change, so we have decided to delay our decision for a couple of weeks.”

The work session was held to review a Return to Learn document which outlines the procedures for conducting school using the three different scenarios which are in-person learning, hybrid learning and distance learning.

Activities director Rob Norman addressed the recent announcement moving volleyball and football to the spring.

“The Minnesota State High School League is trying not to eliminate any sports,” Norman remarked. “We do not have many details of how things will work. There will be new protocols coming out regarding how to handle and disinfect equipment. Right now the athletic directors are busy revising the sports schedules.”

Community education director Shannon Swanson also was at the meeting to give her input.

“We (community ed) are unique in that we serve a wide age range of people,” Swanson said. “We serve people from age zero to senior citizens.”

Swanson said more cleaning and sanitizing protocols have been introduced into the program.

“This summer has been a great test for how we will do things this fall,” she shared. “We were able to have programs this summer. They started slow but picked up as time went by.”

Fletcher gave the facilities report for Al Gieser who was on vacation.

“In-school and hybrid learning will have very similar requirements. We will depend on staff to be in charge of their area to keep it clean and disinfected,” Fletcher commented. “Al has ordered all the supplies necessary for the teachers and staff.”

Fletcher reported the drinking fountains have been replaced with bottle-filling stations.

“Visitors will also be limited,” Fletcher said. “Only essential visits will be permitted. Parents will be allowed in the school after going through a checklist. They must wear a mask and are encouraged to use hand sanitizer.”

Food Service director Jamie Gordon-Kamm told the board all food service workers have been and will continue to wear facemasks.

“We also do daily screening for everybody involved in food service,” he explained. “Students will be given scan cards this year to use at lunchtime instead of punching in codes. All meals will be preordered by 3:30 p.m. the previous day and we will not accept any cash at the register.”

Principal Dave Dressler addressed some of the instructional issues.

“There are many moving pieces and all of the scenarios vary between age groups,” Dressler said. “With in-school learning our goal is to create as much space between students as possible and to limit areas of congestion.”

He said things will be different in the elementary building.

“We are trying not to have the younger kids move from classroom to classroom,” Dressler noted. “In the high school the kids will be able to have lockers but they will be spread out. They will also be allowed to take their backpacks with them during the day.”

Media director Jennifer Berkner said the district has worked hard to ensure all students are able to access the Internet.

“Last year we allowed one hot spot Internet access device per family,” she continued. “This year it will be one hot spot per family for those who need them.”

BEA Transportation director Barb Hammer reported the bus routes would remain close to the same as last year if the district is able to have in-school learning.

“Kids will need to wear masks. We will fill the bus from the back to the front and empty the bus from the front to the back,” Hammer said. “We will also have the windows down when the weather permits to increase ventilation in accordance with the Center for Disease Control guidelines.”

School nurse and COVID-19 coordinator Anne Croften said, “We will do what we have to do to be with our kids because we want to be with our kids.”

Croften shared staff members will wear face shields in addition to masks.

The full report will be up for approval at the School Board meeting on Aug. 10.

If approved it will be released to the public soon after the Aug. 10 meeting.