ROBERTSDALE – Baldwin County public schools will reopen Aug. 12 with new medical procedures intended to help deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, education officials said.
Those guidelines include more strict policies on students returning after getting sick, sanitizing school facilities and notifying parents of the numbers of students testing positive for the coronavirus, Eddie Tyler, superintendent of education, said at a press conference July 23.
Tyler said that while some school systems, such as Mobile, have postponed opening school, Baldwin County classes will resume on schedule.
“I believe that reopening schools during this critical COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for many, many families. Families are experiencing additional economic hardships, social isolation by their children,” Tyler said. “I’ve received an outpouring from parents about stay the course, our children need to be back in school. And they know the risks. They know the risks.”
Tyler said the US Department of Homeland Security has labeled schools an essential industry and that classes should resume across the country. Baldwin officials realize that reopening schools will provide opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.
“I want to remind you again about the risks,” Tyler said. “When you send your children to traditional schools, accept the risk that your child will come in contact with the coronavirus.”
Parents concerned about that risk can enroll their children in the county’s Virtual School where students receive online instruction.
About 3,500 students have enrolled in Virtual School for the upcoming academic year.
He said removing those students from classrooms will provide more space for social distancing in school buildings.
Other precautions include increasing the time that students must stay out of school if they have a fever. Students will now have to stay home three days, up from two in the past, after a fever.
If a student shows signs of illness in a classroom, he or she will be sent to the school nurse. Students who have signs of COVID-19 will be placed in an isolation room until their parents can take them home.
Any student or employee sent home with signs of COVID-19 cannot return to school until one of three requirements are met, Tyler said.
The person must have a note from a doctor clearing them to return to school.
They have a negative COVID-19.
They remain away from school at least 14 days and been cleared of fever at least three days.
Tyler said cleaning priorities will be changed from tasks such as mopping halls to protecting students and workers from the coronavirus.
“Every day we’re treating and sanitizing our schools expecting we will have COVID exposure,” he said. “So every day, it’s expected something will arise, every day, our schools, our halls, our classrooms, our cafeterias, our gyms, through all the devices we have will be sanitized, either starting in the morning, before everyone arrives or ending the day when we lock the schools up.”
All students and employees will wear masks during school. John Wilson, chief financial officer, said the school system bought 1.3 million masks as well as other personal protective equipment, to prepare for the year.
Tyler said that while Baldwin officials have no plans to close schools, they will continue to monitor the spread of the virus in the area and in schools.
“We could close schools. We could close one school. We could close a feeder pattern. We could close all schools,” Tyler said. “But that decision will be made in close consultation with health, medical and government leaders as well as our seven-member school board. This will be challenging decision one we will not take lightly.”
The Baldwin County Board of Education voted on the evening of July 23 to support reopening schools.