Superintendent optimistic schools will reopen in the fall
Last updated 7/1/2020 at 4:05pm
RITZVILLE – Superintendent Don Vanderholm said he is feeling optimistic about the fall re-opening of the Lind-Ritzville Cooperative Schools.
“We think we can meet the six-foot social distancing demands. If it’s a matter of square footage - and I heard that emphasized twice now from Superintendent Reykdal - then based on our numbers of students, it’s quite likely we can open up without any split or rotating schedules,” Vanderholm said.
He said details would have to be worked out regarding alternating times when kids are in the hallways, and lunches would have to be staggered.
“We also have to figure out how to staff all that. Because having the square footage for the kids is one thing, but if we have to break kids up, do we have enough staff to spread around? So, our schedule may look different,” Vanderholm said. “We hope to have it as regular as we can, but we just don’t know.”
Vanderholm said one thing that sounded certain was the requirement for staff, students and visitors to all wear masks.
“That doesn’t seem like that’s going to go away unless something drastic changes between now and school starting,” Vanderholm said. “There will be lots of challenges that go with that, we know.”
Vanderholm said he was looking for more guidance to come out from OSPI, working with the Department of Health, regarding small children and masks. He said he knew people would be frustrated, but the school district has to comply with the DOH and the Department of Labor and Industries.
Vanderholm said L&I came out with safety and health requirements for reopening Washington schools June 15, supplemental to the OSPI and DOH guidelines.
“That’s something we haven’t seen before, in this whole process,” Vanderholm said. “They were a little more explicit about specifically ensuring operations that followed L&I COVID-19 requirements to protect workers, and it’s my understanding that they’re trying to balance that across all industries. They’re not trying to treat schools differently.”
He said L&I’s “stronger language” about not allowing employees to come to work sick was “raising questions.”
“That’s going to increase employee absences, which makes it challenging. That’s why we’re looking at the whole distance learning aspects as still being a big part of this,” Vanderholm said, adding, “Very strongly and bold on the bottom of this is stated, ‘No school district may operate until they can meet and maintain all the requirements in this document.’”
Vanderholm said school districts were waiting for OSPI to send out a template for how to write individual school district plans for reopening.
“The plan itself has to be flexible to change within the year. But in between now and school starting, we have to be ready to change that plan based on whatever changes happen in the next few months,” Vanderholm said, adding he and the local stakeholder team will be creating the district’s plan.
“I don’t know how realistic it is to say it would be done by the end of June,” Vanderholm said. “There’s no point in getting too far ahead of OSPI. When they get us their planning template, then we’ll know what we actually need to have in our plan.”
Vanderholm said he is also waiting on Frequently Asked Questions publications from both OSPI and L&I.
Vanderholm said music remained a big question, as well as sports.
“Right now, you can’t go to church and sing if you have a few people, from the guy that’s the governor now,” Vanderholm said. “Hopefully, if it was just a matter of more space, maybe we could split band and students could just go every other day to band. But will they let us have performances? That’s kind of tied to the whole, is there going to be sports? If there’s going to be sports, are there going to be spectators?”
The school board meets this evening, June 24, at 6:30 p.m.