How can Ketchikan’s students and teachers stay safe as kids go back to classrooms five days a week? Ketchikan’s school board will discuss district officials’ recommendations for school safety Wednesday following a vote last month to start the year at full capacity.
“Probably the one we want to start with is face masks and making them required for all staff and students,” Ketchikan superintendent Beth Lougee said Tuesday in a phone interview. “With, of course, the understanding based on case-by-case situations, we completely understand medical conditions.”
There would be some exceptions to that — medical conditions, as Lougee mentioned — but also, teachers would have the freedom to allow students to remove their masks if, say, they’re able to maintain distance from one another.
“We’re entrusting our teachers, you know, we’ll use common-sense best practices,” she said.
Lougee says she’ll also ask the board to revisit the concept of leasing community buildings like churches for extra classroom space. Those so-called “annexes” would spread students out and cut the chance of them spreading the coronavirus.
“I will talk tomorrow night about the annexes being an immediate need,” Lougee said.
Initially, Lougee proposed splitting up classes — certified teachers and teachers’ aides would work together to teach a class. Some parents pushed back on that, saying aides wouldn’t be as effective as teachers.
Lougee says the new concept is different: instead of splitting classes, entire grade levels could be moved off-site. But they’d stay with their teachers.
“So students will go with their teachers and be with them five days a week,” Lougee said. “It is not the same option that we first rolled out where students may only see their teacher two or three times a week. This is five days a week.”
Lougee says that would free up space back at the school building for others to spread out.
Lougee also recommends mandating temperature checks for all students entering schools, and she recommends that teachers set an example by frequently washing their hands.
Students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms, like, say, a cough, wouldn’t be allowed to come back to school until they’ve been symptom-free for 24 hours.
“There’s a lot of worry that just because somebody has a cough they would have to go home and quarantine and get tests — not at all,” she said.
Under the safety plan, she says students that show symptoms at school would be taken from classrooms to a private location, where their parents would be called.
And teachers, too, Lougee says — she says teachers will be allowed to work from home. Lougee says those teachers could be reassigned to distance learning, or in some cases, even teach a classroom full of kids from home.
“We would work with them to be able to provide that education from home via distance learning back to the student,” she said.
Ketchikan’s school board will consider Lougee’s safety recommendations — and a number of other items — at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the White Cliff Building. Members of the public can offer comments at the start and end of the meeting.