Public school students will return to campus in a little over a week to find wider-spaced desks, hand sanitizer stations and Plexiglas shields, among a variety of safety measures detailed this week by the Napa Valley Unified School District.
Directors of the school system, which teaches more than 17,000 students across 28 campuses, shared the changes during an NVUSD committee meeting ahead of the Oct. 26 debut of a hybrid learning system that will combine two days of in-person learning with the remote learning that has become the rule since the coronavirus pandemic forced all campuses to close in March.
The Napa school district is preparing to edge back toward a classroom experience as Napa County remains in the “red” tier of California’s four-level scale of coronavirus spread – a step above the “purple” level indicating the highest infection rate and thus the strictest curbs on group activities and business.
New classroom layouts with all desks facing toward the teacher will keep students at least 4 feet from one another, and 6 feet apart where space allows, according to Mike Pearson, assistant superintendent for operations. The teacher will be seated at least 6 feet from the nearest students and will use a portable Plexiglas shield whenever conversing one-on-one with a pupil.
Most rooms will be supplied with hand sanitizer stations along with disinfectant spray for wiping down frequently touched surfaces where viruses can linger. Signage throughout buildings will provide constant reminders to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, practice social distancing, and wear face coverings – an on-campus requirement this year for all NVUSD students from the third grade up.
Climate control systems at school buildings will be fitted with higher-grade filters that also will be changed every three months, twice as often as before, Pearson told the district’s Facilities and Technology Committee during a teleconference. Daily cleaning of buildings and fixtures will also include the use of electrostatic spraying machines for more thorough disinfection.
Pearson reported the school district now has “an abundance” of masks, face shields and gloves for school staff, after the early weeks of the COVID-19 were marked by nationwide shortages of protective gear. NVUSD expects to re-order protective equipment every six to eight weeks, he said.
The return to classrooms later this month will move NVUSD into the second of four phases, leaving behind the all-online model it – and nearly all other California schools – was forced to adopt in March at the start of the pandemic.
Initially, students whose parents opt for the hybrid program will come to class two days a week and continue remote learning on the other three days. NVUSD is dividing its student body into two groups, one visiting campuses on Monday and Tuesday afternoons while the other arrives on Thursday and Friday mornings. No in-person teaching will take place on Wednesdays.
NVUSD is following state guidance calling on reopening schools to test at least 25% of employees every two weeks, a process the district has said will cost about $40,000 per week for 250 screenings. The state directive also calls for closing a school if 5% of the total number of students and staff contract COVID-19 in a 14-day period, and shutting down all district schools if one-quarter of them must halt in-person teaching.
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You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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