Tentative Warden school reopening plan under discussion

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 29, 2020 8:00 PM

WARDEN — The 2020-21 school year will start in Warden Sept. 2, and a plan for reopening school will be approved by the Warden School Board Aug. 19. How classes will be conducted is still to be determined, but district superintendent Dave LaBounty said July 24 that classes probably will be partly on campus and partly online.

“We won’t have all kids in (the buildings) every day. We will have elements of online learning,” LaBounty said.

Schools statewide were closed March 17 and stayed closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year as part of the effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. With the coronavirus still active, LaBounty said, schools have to work within guidelines designed to reduce its spread.

LaBounty said that will mean screening and temperature checks before kids can get on the bus or enter the buildings. Each building will have a single point of entry.

Everyone in the buildings, adults and children, will have to wear masks and maintain social distancing guidelines. “You can only have so many individuals within so many feet,” LaBounty said.

Students will be divided into groups, and will stay with that group, with mixing between groups kept to a minimum. If a teacher, staff member or student tests positive for coronavirus, a plan is in place to quarantine the group or groups who came in contact with the infected person.

District officials have made progress in their effort to improve accessibility to the equipment and connectivity needed for online learning. Online learning was a challenge when schools closed in March, LaBounty said.

“Warden just didn’t have the infrastructure,” LaBounty said. “We did not have a device (computer) per student,” and not all students had access to a Wi-Fi connection. Now the district does have a computer for each kid, and connectivity has been improved. LaBounty said a voter-approved special levy for technology and security upgrades was crucial to helping meet the need.

Voters approved the technology-security levy in 2019, providing money to pay for upgrades to district technology and remodeling to improve security. LaBounty said that money came in handy when the district had to invest in a number of new computers, and it allowed district officials to go ahead with remodeling plans that provided single entries to each building.

Warden’s summer school was conducted entirely online. “It was a lot better experience than we had when we closed school down,” LaBounty said.

He expressed gratitude to district voters. “We would be in a different place if we didn’t have that special levy,” he said.

Ultimately allowing kids back in the buildings will depend on the behavior of the coronavirus, and school may be shut down again, either in Warden or statewide. “We have to have that thought out there. We have to be ready for that,” LaBounty said.

District officials will be updating the school website weekly to keep parents and district patrons informed, LaBounty said.