The North Bend Eagle


NBC to start with optional masks, more spacing

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 7/22/20

Going forward with opening school as scheduled on August 18 was an easy decision for the North Bend Central Board of Education at its July 13 meeting.

How to best face the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic beyond that took a little more discussion. In the end, the board decided to make the wearing of masks in school optional and to made modifications to space students as much as possible.

When the discussion began, board members agreed that the goal was to start school with students face-to-face with teachers on Aug. 18. Priorities for the coming year were 1) get the kids in school daily, 2) with teachers 3) and all safe once they are all there. This was voted upon and approved 6-0 .

“No matter what we decide today, we have to realize it’s a dynamic situation,” board member Francis Emanuel said. “We are going to have to realize it’s going to change, and we better not get stuck on what we think we know. Even if we do come up with a general plan tonight, we reserve the right to change ‘X’ policy based on the situation, based on (principal Brenda) Petersen’s recommendation of what the school’s experiencing.”

Elementary principal Tessie Beaver presented a map of the elementary school to show her plan to improve distancing between students. The elementary grades each have 33 to 44 students enrolled. Instead of dividing them into two sections as usual, they will be divided into three sections with the two teachers doing the instruction and a paraprofessional providing enrichment activities and supervision.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do,” Beaver said. “We want kids every day. We want teachers every day.”

High school principal Brenda Petersen said that middle school classes could be distanced by moving classes to rooms that have movable walls and opening those walls to make one large room for core classes. Teachers of elective classes would be asked to come to the expanded rooms.

In the high school, grades range from 42 to 59 students. The largest class is the seniors, who need the least amount of credits and may be flexible with their scheduling. Most of the classes are split into three sections, so social distancing would be possible. Classes not able to distance may be moved to the library or a gym for space.

“I don’t want to quarantine a whole class for a number of reasons,” Petersen said. “These are high school kids. And high school kids on Friday night are going to play a football game. I’m hoping to keep everybody as healthy as possible. I don’t want to quarantine healthy kids. I want to stay out of that as much as possible so those kids can enjoy their high school year as much as (they) can and give them all the opportunities possible to a high school kid.”

Petersen said that NBC is fortunate that it has room to move students and classes around. If needed, there could be some e-learning implemented.

The topic of masks brought some disagreement

Board member Bob Feurer said that the people at greatest risk are the adult teachers, bus drivers, kitchen and other staff. He said masks prevent a person from giving the virus to someone else, especially if everyone has a mask. He suggested masks be made mandatory.

A Risk Dial is being used statewide to define the level of alert concerning the virus. A local committee will determine the risk factor for North Bend following state guidelines and recommendations. See superintendent Dan Endorf’s article on page 4 for further explanation.

“If we follow the rules,” Endorf said, “they won’t quarantine us. We need the kids to stay out of quarantine. We need our teachers to keep out of quarantine. If we want to have activities, we can’t have a number of kids or staff in quarantine. It’s a local decision.”

The board also discussed the effect of COVID-19 on daily temperature screening, locker use, transportation, cleaning, hydration, activities and more.

“Buses are a petri dish on wheels according to Three Rivers (Health Department),” Endorf said. “I fear if students want to use school transportation, they are more likely to be placed in quarantine if they don’t wear a mask if there is a positive case on that bus.”

Being six feet or closer for 10 minutes or more does not meet the standard of social distancing. This is why school buses are a challenge, Endorf said.

The board approved the hiring of two people as COVID mitigation personnel to help as support persons and purchased two additional hydrostatic disinfectant spray guns to clean buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After 2-and-a-half hours of discussion, the board voted to make masks optional for students and staff. In a separate vote the board requested that the principals implement their self distancing plans for their respective buildings.

The next meeting is Aug. 10.


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