Face masks to be worn if cannot social distance at CCPS

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Until COVID-19 is no longer a threat, parents must help small children understand the necessity of wearing face masks for their own protection.

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

COVID-19 is still impacting the lives of everyday Americans all over the country.

At the monthly School Board meeting on August 11, the decision to wear masks in schools was revisited.

Superintendent Jeanette Warwick shared that concerns had been brought to her attention of students being in the hallways without face coverings and unable to social distance at lockers, in lunchroom lines and other places.

Therefore, a survey was sent to Craig County teachers to ask their preferences in wearing a mask.

Foster said the survey included three questions:

  • Should they be required for everyone all the time?
  • Should they be required if less than six-foot social distancing?
  • Should they be optional?

Every faculty member responded. Seventy-nine percent felt that face coverings should be either required or use six-foot social distancing. The remaining 21 percent chose that they should be optional, for both students and teachers.

The teachers believe if the students are required to wear a mask, then they should have to so as well. Board member Gina Smith inquired if the students had to wear them at their desks.

Director of Instruction and Education Technology Samuel Foster informed the Board that if the percentage of students who have chosen to do virtual studies remain the same, there would be enough room in almost every classroom where students would not have to wear a mask and maintain the six-foot social distancing.

Superintendent Warwick said the biggest concern she had been confronted with was for the high school when they are changing classes in the hallways.

“Dr. O’Dell suggested face coverings when we cannot maintain the six-foot social distancing,” she said. “That is what I am recommending to the Board, from her recommendation.”

She added that the principals measured their rooms and set up their plans when they presented them to the School Board in the previous plans.

Warwick added, “We have asked the students to stay virtual for the first nine weeks, so we can continue the social distancing plan we have set forth, and hopefully after the nine weeks, we won’t have to worry about it.”

Warwick noted that initially they felt strongly to just encourage the face masks, but with the new guidance they have received, “we felt we needed to bring it back to the Board to make a change.”

Board member Traci Bellassai asked, “If we are to make it a requirement, what would be the repercussions to a student if they choose not to wear one?”

“They would have to, and it would become a disciplinary matter for the older students especially. If they cannot do that, they would have to go to virtual learning,” Warwick responded. “We have to be developmentally appropriate at the elementary school. I really don’t see that there will be a big issue in the younger students.”

High school principal Melissa Whiting shared that she had spoken to many of her teachers about the face coverings.

“They are mainly concerned about the hallways. We only have a few large classes. Most of the number sizes are extremely manageable,” Whiting said. “It’s something we need to have direction on, but we need to see how it goes.”

Whiting is a former elementary teacher herself. She said that the elementary students are used to walking in a straight line on one side, but that it is very different in a high school environment.

“High schoolers don’t walk in a line down the hallway or try to get them to hold onto a rope,” Whiting added as many laughed with her.

Elementary Principal Gerri Horton said the main concern of her teachers was walking to lunch and waiting in line. “Walking in a line and to the right will be easy but to keep them six feet apart, we feel is not reasonable,” she said.

Warwick noted that having to line all the students up six feet apart to get on the buses would also be difficult.

“My recommendations is to use masks only when they cannot social-distance, which would be mostly in the hallways and on the buses,” she said. “We cannot social distance on the buses, but we are able to do the three feet, with approximately 157 students registering for bus transportation.”

Smith voiced her concerns that maybe the students will not wear the masks appropriately, or they will play with them and touch them, causing cross-contamination.

As a nurse, she noted she was taught the mask is for a single use only and after it is touched, one is encouraged to wash their hands.

“To ask our kids to wear a mask in a place where they are to be learning and supposed to be a comfortable environment, to me that is not comfortable,” she said. “I am fine with the hallways, if that is what we have to do in accordance with the guidelines, but I don’t believe they will be worn appropriately and would not like for our kids to have to wear them in the classrooms.”

Crenshaw added, “These kids have to be educated on these masks.”

Board member George Foster added, “I can agree that the students should wear masks in the hallways, but not in the classrooms all day.”

Smith also inquired if the students would be provided with clean masks.

Though the school is not responsible for providing masks, Warwick shared that they would have to discuss more on this issue. She noted, “I do worry about the discipline part, such as; put your mask on, don’t sling it like a slingshot. But I don’t want to put that on the teachers, as I want them to be focusing on teaching. However, I am also concerned when others have expressed their issues about the hallways.”

Whiting said she believes her students will do their best, “as that is how they do everything else they do.”

Smith brought up a concern as to where the students would then store their masks when not worn. Warwick said that those items would be discussed in the first day with the students as each student will receive a lanyard with their new barcode scanner to be used in the lunchroom and with their Chromebook.

“We will have a bag for their lanyards and their masks,” she said. “I agree that there will have to be a lot of education for them. It would take too long to have six-foot distancing in lunch lines and may be difficult with the younger kids.”

After much discussion, it was decided to heed to the necessity of wearing of masks, but only in the hallways and when the students are not able to practice social distancing, such as in lunch lines and on the school buses.

The school bus will be having students to sit one person per seat, giving a three-foot distancing, therefore students will need to wear their masks while on the buses as well.

For the students to ride a bus, “they have to abide by the rules of the face masks as well, as the bus drivers have to concentrate on their driving,” Warwick said.

Bus drivers will have to report students to Whiting or VanDyke if any issues arrive. Warwick noted that they might be able to buy extra masks with the Cares Act Funding Program.

Parents are encouraged to talk with the administration if there are any health concerns their children may have with wearing a mask, or if they have any questions in this time of transitioning to a new way of school.