Undergoing spring (break) cleaning

Editor's note: Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday all K-12 schools in Kansas will be shuttered the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. You can read about it here.

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Local News

March 17, 2020 - 10:41 AM

Ronnie Higginbotham, head custodian for USD 257, sprays disinfectant on lockers at Iola High School. The district is conducting a deep cleaning of all schools during spring break, which is typical because of flu season, but is taking extra precautions with increased disinfection efforts because of the threat of a new coronavirus. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Under the current plan, students will return to Iola schools Monday.

But as the national and state responses to a deadly new coronavirus continue to evolve, school administrators are taking things day by day. USD 257 is following state recommendations, and plans to return to classes on March 23. But they’re also working on contingency plans if classes are cancelled.

“We want to carry on the learning process,” USD 257 Superintendent Stacey Fager said Monday afternoon. “We want to provide children with the nutrition we know is so desperately needed in our community. That’s important to us and it’s important to our patrons as well.”

Fager and other area superintendents have daily meetings with Kansas Department of Education officials. As of Monday, the state officials advised schools to take this week off with the intention of returning to classes on March 23. Many districts, like Iola, Humboldt and Marmaton Valley, are on spring break this week. Other districts were on spring break last week or next week, giving them two weeks off.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association also canceled all practices and competitions this week, noting the possibility that it could extend the prohibition. 

Fager and other administrators and staff met at the end of the day Friday, as classes were dismissed for spring break, to discuss options if the break is extended. Under such a scenario, teachers would be asked to prepare a two-week lesson plan for students to work on at home. 

The district also will discuss options to possibly provide meals, similar to the summer meal program, if classes are cancelled. 

Fager would not speculate as to what might happen with other school-related events and activities.

“My concern right now is will we have school on the 23rd. That’s my first priority. We’ll talk about other activities and events as we move forward,” he said.

Assuming classes will resume next Monday, Fager said staff will follow recommendations as best they can on things like “social distancing.” Health professionals recommend keeping 6 feet of distance between people. That may not be possible in a classroom setting, Fager said, but faculty will do the best they can to limit the spread of illness.

There are many unknown factors surrounding COVID-19, a new type of coronavirus, but it seems to have less severe symptoms in children and younger adults. However, those people can spread the illness to elderly, who tend to have more severe and potentially fatal reactions. 

CLEANING activities at Iola schools also have ramped up this week, according to maintenance director Aaron Cole.

The district typically uses spring break to conduct a thorough cleaning of all the buildings, because the break typically coincides with flu season.

In addition to that cleaning, custodial staff are following up with another round of disinfectant on all “high touch” areas like lockers, door knobs, stairwell railings and more. 

“We’re getting everything cleaned and disinfected the best we can,” Cole said. 

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