School start-up at Gilpin this fall

Striving to be free from Coronavirus with in-person learning

By Esmee Halsted

The school year is right around the corner. Unlike most years, COVID-19 will affect school learning. There are many different plans circulating around Colorado such as staggered schedules or online learning. In our community, Gilpin County School is planning to resume in-person learning on August 10th with plenty of safety measures. However, students can choose to attend virtually. Gilpin County has released a start-up plan highlighting how the school will handle the Coronavirus outbreak. It includes information about face covering, school transportation, disinfecting, building entry, group/ cohort management, and suspected and confirmed Coronavirus cases.

When it comes to face covering, Gilpin is planning to require face masks and shields across the entire school. Depending on age everyone, including parents, must wear a face mask while on the grounds. In classrooms while masks are not age appropriate, staff will utilize face shields and additional barriers. There will be exemptions for children with medical conditions if they provide a doctor’s note. By using face coverings, the school community should be much safer.

The buses will be in use this school year with incorporated safety measures. However, parents will be encouraged to self-transport their students to school when possible to allow for social distancing and small group requirements. Students on the bus will be given hand sanitizer. They will also be required to wear masks. Furthermore, bus drivers will record all student attendance on school transportation for contact tracing. Lastly, the buses will be disinfected every morning and evening. Students will be able to get to and from school with the necessary precautions to stop the virus.

In order to reduce the spread of the virus, Gilpin plans on disinfecting surfaces and the larger building. Disinfecting kills the virus lingering on shared resources. When a group of students leaves, the classroom will be cleaned before another group uses the space. Students are expected to bring their own supplies. Still, shared objects will be sanitized after use. Personally, handwashing and hand sanitation will be widely encouraged and utilized. For example, Gilpin plans to schedule breaks for hand washing hygiene. Additionally, they will use post educational posters on proper hand washing procedures. By keeping the school clean and sanitizing hands, students will be less likely to be exposed.

When entering the building, certain procedures are in place during the COVID-19 outbreak. Upon entry, students, staff, and their families must wear masks and are required to be temperature and symptom screened while maintaining social distancing. What’s more, Gilpin will reduce or eliminate contact with non-essential visits, volunteers, and outside groups. By stopping the virus at the door, the building will be, God willing, Covid-free.

To maintain social distancing, there will be special cohort/group management policies. First of all, groups of students will be kept together throughout the day and intermixing between groups will be avoided. Accordingly, common spaces such as the cafeteria will not be in use. Instead students are likely to each sit in their designated classroom and cohort. In the elementary, recess will be staggered and social distancing will be adhered to whenever possible. Any events that may increase exposure will be canceled or moved to an online platform. That includes field trips, assemblies, plays, and concerts. However, events that allow for social distancing and proper hand hygiene will be permitted. By grouping students and avoiding contact, the chances are greatly reduced of a school-wide spread of the virus.

If a confirmed or potential case of COVID-19 is identified, the school will take the matter very seriously. When students or staff demonstrate symptoms of the virus or have a fever, they will be put in an isolation room then sent home. Any suspected or confused cases will be reported to Gilpin County Public Health. In the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case, the school will be shut down for a series of time in order to disinfect. As a result, students will return to online learning. At that time, extracurricular activities will be suspended. All confirmed Coronavirus cases will be kept confidential by law. Most important, Gilpin plans to work closely with Gilpin County Public Health to re-open the school building.

The plan set forth by Gilpin County School will hopefully allow for a successful in-person school year. Even though there are some guidelines, students will be able to get a comprehensive education while staying safe. However, the COVID-19 will still be affecting Gilpin schools greatly. The best thing to do is take personal responsibility during the school year as a family and individual.

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