GICC starts first week of school with COVID-19 safety measures

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 5:53 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Face masks are a required supply at Grand Island Central Catholic this year as the school begins classes during a pandemic.

Wednesday wrapped up the second day of classes at GICC. This school year will look different than in the past with extra safety and cleaning procedures.

“So far, so good,” said Jordan Engle, principal of GICC. “I’m just so happy and relieved to see kids back in the hallways.”

When students enter the building, they walk over to a nearby kiosk to check their temperatures. Someone puts their face close to the screen, which gives a reading within a few seconds. Engle said the device also has facial recognition. The school plans to develop a profile for each student in the upcoming weeks. The software keeps a running inventory of temperatures and times for staff to check.

Students wear masks the majority of the day, including during passing periods and in classrooms. In classes with fewer students or in large rooms where social distancing is possible, students can remove their masks. They don’t have to wear masks while eating lunch.

Engle said students have been great about following the rules.

“I really appreciate the fact that (the students) understand how important it is for us to keep the school open. They are the main role in that, because they represent 80 percent of the people that are in the building on a daily basis,” Engle said.

Gavin Langer, a senior at GICC, said he doesn’t mind wearing a mask at school. Langer said he was a little worried returning this year after not having classes in the building for several months, but is excited to be back.

“I’m pretty happy to be in the classroom rather than online, which I know there still probably are chances of it going online, but I think here we’ll be fine,” Langer said. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Cathy Howard is an English teacher at GICC. She said the desks in her room are cleaned multiple times throughout the day. Students are encouraged to use hand sanitizer and wash their hands often.

Howard has anywhere from five to 20 students in her classroom at a time. On Wednesday, all of her senior class wore masks the duration of the period as they read papers off their laptops.

“I miss seeing the kids’ faces and I wonder how long it’ll be before we get to see each other,” Howard said. “At the same time, the kids know if we want to stay in school and we want to participate in activities that this is what we have to do. So we’re ready.”

GICC worked closely with the Central District Health Department to develop the school safety plan. Now, staff is prioritizing what activities can be done safely.

Teachers received training on virtual education before school started in case the area sees a spike in COVID-19 cases that forces the school to switch to e-learning. For now, GICC will continue safety measures that are in place.

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