HPS holds work session to discuss return to school options

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 10:31 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The Hastings Public Schools Board held a work session Thursday evening to consider what school will look like this fall.

As of July 9, they are discussing three different options.

The first option would be to allow 50 percent attendance inside the schools at a time. Students would either go in every other day, or they would have half in the mornings and half in the evenings. This option makes it easier to social distance but creates a lot of difficulty for students and staff.

The other two options are full attendance where a face mask is recommended or full attendance requiring the use of a face mask when possible.

The board has been working very closely with the South Heartland District Health Department, who is currently recommending full attendance and requiring masks when possible, which they are leaning toward as well.

“We’re educators, we’re not health professionals. We don’t feel qualified to make this decision. We’ve listened, we’ve had multiple meetings,” HPS Superintendent Jeff Schneider said. “We will probably give our parents a chance to meet with some health care professionals to ask the questions and air their concerns. But at the end of the day, we feel like we need to take the advice of our local health professionals.”

If they do decide to go through with this option, each student and staff member will be provided with multiple masks. They will also have masks on hand if a kid was to forget theirs. Schneider said safety is their number one priority, and believes the masks provide the best chance of keeping kids in school and preventing massive quarantines.

“It’s best for kids to be in school, and for parents and employers they need the kids to be in school,” Schneider said. “The requiring of face coverings is going to be controversial and it’s gonna be difficult, but ultimately the reason we are doing that is to give us the best chance to have school on a regular basis.”

Schneider said they would accommodate for students and staff that do not feel safe to return to school, and for those who are unable to wear masks because of health conditions.

“The biggest thing we want our community to know is that we are doing everything we can to try to figure out how we can have school this fall in the safest manner possible,” Schneider said. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be convenient, but we think it’s a must for our community.”

The work session was meant to discuss their current options and give parents the opportunity to respond with questions and concerns.

“This plan won’t take action until August. That is by design,” Schneider said. “We wanted to allow parents and stakeholders in the community time to contact the school and school board with questions, so that we can try to answer those the best we can before we make a final decision.”

Schneider said things have been changing every day and he expects things to change again, but they want to begin to take steps toward making a plan to be back in school on schedule.

“There is no doubt there will probably be some changes between now and August 18 when we open up. We just have to adapt and have to think about others,” Schneider said. “If we work together to help each other out and to help the kids at school, we will get through this.”

The plan is to be acted on at the Board of Education meeting on August 10, but could change based on guidance from health officials.

Other COVID-19 procedures they are considering with the reopening of schools:

  • Hand washing/sanitizer
  • Temperature checks for students and staff members
  • Custodial schedule
  • pick up/drop off
  • Lunch/breakfast (additional locations, outside when possible)
  • Recess
  • Water fountains
  • COVID-19 symptom procedures
  • Music class
  • Lockers
  • Transportation

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