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Amid the political chaos that surrounds the return to school next month, it is vital that parents become proactive in an all-out effort to ensure the safety of their children. Parents must become mobilized and involved in their local school district policies regarding the safe return to school. At the same time, parents must have input regarding how the federal and state guidelines are applied by their local school district. Keep in mind that many of these guidelines provide a great deal of choice in terms of how your school district applies or chooses not to apply the guidelines. This is the time to ask questions of your local school district, not after the schools have already opened.
There are two initial objectives that need to be addressed.
First, know when your local school board is meeting to approve their district plan for the return to school. Be aware that any parent that wishes to address the school board has that right but must request to do so within a specific time frame before the school board meeting is scheduled. Because this time frame can vary from one school district to another it is best to contact your local school district office to be placed on the agenda. By doing so you will be permitted to address the district superintendent and/or school board in order to ask questions or request more details regarding their specific COVID-19 policies. At this point, most school boards are meeting remotely online, but that does not prevent you from taking part. After you make your request to address the school board you will be provided a link to join the meeting online and ask questions.
Know what questions you feel need to be asked. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific details on how your school district will actually carry out their COVID-19 policies. For example, if your school district says they will “clean” high contact areas of the school, then ask how? Will they use electrostatic sprayers? Will they use the disinfectant cleaners rated to kill the coronavirus? Who will do the cleaning? Are they provided any specific training or instruction regarding the coronavirus? Will disinfectant cleaning be done during the school day and after the children leave? What areas of the school will be disinfected daily, does it include classrooms, desks, hallways, bathrooms, locker rooms, library, and gym?
School districts are required to post their COVID-19 policies on their public website. Read it and determine for yourself if you are comfortable sending your child to school under the policies established by your local school district. But most importantly, ask questions and request details where you feel the policy is too general or ambiguous.
Finally, don’t depend on others to have sole control regarding your child’s safe return to school. We all want our children to return to in-person instruction, but we also have a basic responsibility to make sure our children are protected to the greatest extent possible. Now is the time to be be proactive, not after schools have already opened.
Robert Griffiths is a former educator and a current educational consultant and Cornwall-Lebanon School District board member. He lives in South Lebanon.
Read previous columns from Robert Griffiths on returning to school
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