BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison School Board approved a long list of health protocols going into the new school year at Monday’s regular board meeting.
According to Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater, the Return to Learn protocols were created in conjunction with Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross.
The new protocols are part of the district’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 illness when families send their children back to school beginning Friday.
The district is starting the year with a rotating A week/B week schedule, with Group B students beginning face-to-face on Friday. Students in each group will currently only rotate face-to-face learning with online learning through the first trimester. Families were notified which group they were in over the past two weeks.
Families were also given the option of taking 100% on line coursework. That option still requires attendance, homework, and instruction from a FMCSD-approved teacher and curriculum.
On Monday, Slater rolled out what steps would be taken in the event that students and staff present with illness, exposure, or positive testing associated with the coronavirus.
The new protocols were set to be uploaded to the district’s website Tuesday at https://www.fmcsd.org/covid-19/.
Masks will be required in the schools when students are moving in the halls at all times, in classrooms where physical distancing is not possible, lunch lines when distancing is not possible, and at bus stops and on buses at all times.
Masks are strongly recommended even when social distancing can be achieved, and during recesses for students in grades K-5.
Slater also went into the daily protocols for cleaning and said a lot of the procedures have already been in place, but many have been enhanced. Buses will be disinfected between and after every bus run using sprays to wipe down all common surfaces. Fogger and misters will be used to disinfect on a weekly basis.
Buses will also be running with windows and hatches open when possible.
Daily building surfaces will be cleaned with all-purpose cleaner throughout the day as needed.
Disinfectants will be applied to all surfaces by staff wearing personal protective equipment. At night the entirety of each classroom will be deep cleaned. Locker rooms, restrooms and gym areas will also be deep cleaned at night, some using an electrostatic ion sprayer that gives a positive ion charge to a disinfectant solution that is sprayed over surfaces.
“Particles hold their charge for approximately two to three seconds preventing drips. This allows the solution to cover hidden and shadowed areas and allows large areas to be covered in a small amount of time,” Slater said.
Food service staff will wear masks when social distancing cannot be maintained. Board member Brad Menke asked if food service staff shouldn’t be wearing masks at all times, but Slater said there are times when the staff is dealing with prepackaged food that wouldn’t require the need for a mask.
Masks and face shields will be worn in all food service lines. Plexiglass has also been utilized in the lines. Cash and checks will not be accepted during service times to reduce the handling of money. Any meal payments are to be taken to the building offices for processing.
Slater showed eight slides that she said were directly from the Lee County Health Department. She said she, and other districts in Lee County, have been working with Ross and her staff in preparing the illness protocols for staff and students.
“Basically what I did when I contacted her is I said if you could just provide me the answers to these questions, I’m going to take exactly what you say and I’m going to lift it and put it here to make sure that the health department and the school district are defining and looking at things the same, and we know that this is what the health department is recommending for Lee County.’
Any students or staff with high risk symptoms, two or more symptoms of the virus, or a fever, will result in isolation and being sent home to be evaluated. If a test result is negative or an alternative diagnosis, the student can return after 24 hours with no fever on no fever reducing medication, and symptoms are improving.
If positive, student or staff can return 10 days have passed since symptoms started and there has been 24 hours with no fever on no fever reducer
If students or staff are suspected to have been exposed, LCHD will work to make contact to those exposed and provide guidance. Anyone exposed will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine and are encouraged to complete the quarantine even if a test comes back negative. An exposure is defined by being with six feet of anyone testing positive for more than 15 minutes with our without a mask on.
Any student/staff testing positive for COVID-19 will begin a case investigation. Anyone testing positive will not be allowed back to school for 10 days after symptoms started and must be fever free for 24 hours. Asymptomatic positives will be asked to stay home for 10 days starting the day of the test.
In an unrelated issue, the board heard from Slater about a new contract with Great River Health System that will phase in a four-year charge for athletic trainer services. Those services had been previously provided at no charge to the district.
For the 2020-21 school year the district will pay 25% of actual costs. For the following three years the district will pay an incremental 25% until paying 100% of costs in the 2023-24 school year.
Board President Tim Wondra said some districts get paid by health care providers for the service, because it funnels patients to their health care system for care.
The contract outlining the new agreement also provides a 20% discount for a corporate health fitness membership for all students, staff, board and faculty, as well as a discount for the health system’s Sports Enhancement Programming Packages.