Madison announces plans for reopening classrooms

MADISON CENTRAL staff and faculty are currently working on plans to reopen public schools, including (above) Madison High School and Madison Middle School, in August despite complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Joel Jorgenson sent out a letter this week explaining some of the changes that staff members plan to make to protect the public's health.

The staff members at Madison's public schools are currently working on plans to open their school buildings to in-person classes on Aug. 20, if the local conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are acceptable.

Superintendent Joel Jorgenson sent out a letter to parents and guardians this week outlining the reopening plans for the Madison Central School District. Madison Central's buildings have remained closed since March due to the pandemic.

According to Jorgenson, school faculty and staff have worked on three reopening plans that include:

-- Traditional school starts with in-person classes and safety precautions.

-- Modified starts, if needed.

-- Distance-learning sessions with the intent to return to in-person classes when possible.

Jorgenson stated, "We will rely on health and safety information to drive our decisions on methods to use for providing the best education opportunities for students."

Jorgenson said Madison Central's intention was to not use distance-learning as the schools' first teaching option.

He added, "We would still ask families to have plans in place in the event we would need to move to a distance-learning format at some point in time due to increased (COVID-19) cases in our area."

Jorgenson announced in the letter that the open house held before the start of classes is expanded to two days, Aug. 18-19, with the first day of classes on Aug. 20. In addition, each student will have an assigned time to attend their open house.

Madison Central's staff is working on operations and changes that include:

-- Deep-cleaning of the schools and other facilities.

-- Adding hand-sanitizer stations in key locations.

-- Multiple cleanings each day for restrooms and high-usage areas.

-- Limiting outside access to schools, including the elimination of parent-student lunches.

-- Changing the schedules for students moving among classrooms.

-- Changing the schedules to allow for added hand-washings during class days.

-- Adding education sessions for proper hand-washing practices.

-- Limiting the student numbers during lunches by using the classrooms and gyms.

-- Sanitizing school buses each day.

-- Having parents screen their children for illness before each school day.

-- Performing added body temperature checks at the schools.

-- Having staff members screen themselves for illness each day.

-- Setting up designated areas in each school for student health checks.

-- Installing transparent plastic barriers in the schools.

-- Using ultraviolet devices for cleaning computer keyboards.

-- Purchasing added disinfecting sprayers for buildings and buses.

-- Providing no-touch thermometers.

Classroom changes include having elementary student desks spread apart and facing the same direction. Students are asked to avoid sharing school supplies.

The staff members are developing changes that include revised recess schedules, hallway use and lunch service (eliminating keypad use).

Regarding transportation, the schools will ask parents to transport their children if possible, and staff will revise student transportation practices. Students in the same families can share bus seats, but otherwise students will have assigned seating. The students will also have hand sanitizer available during the boarding and exiting of buses.

The schools will set up signs recommending social-distancing and proper hand-washing. Staff members will display reminders for persons to not enter the school buildings if they are not feeling well. Buildings will have signs directing the flow of traffic through hallways.

Maintenance staff will adjust the ventilation systems to provide as much fresh air as possible.

Jorgenson ended the letter by writing that school officials and staff members are currently considering additional changes. He thanked everyone for their patience in working with the public schools.