Garden City school officials discuss 2021-2022 operational and safety plan, COVID-19 protocols

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Flags blow in the wind outside the USD 457 Educational Support Center, 1205 N. Fleming St.

The Garden City Public School 2021-22 District Operational and Safety Plan was discussed at USD 457 Board of Education's regular meeting Monday night. 

No final decision on the plan was made. 

Glenda LaBarbera, USD 457 assistant superintendent, said three documents were created to explain the COVID-19 process for the 2021-22 school year. 

The first document explains the classroom/school status in the same Green, Yellow and Red system that was used this past school year. 

Green means there are no positive COVID cases within a classroom/school.

Yellow means there is a positive and students and teachers will be monitored for symptoms over the 14-day incubation period. Those under monitoring should be isolated from other students and staff and should utilize separate entrances and or staggered arrivals, passing in hallways, recess and not participating in school gatherings when possible. 

More:SWKS COVID-19 UPDATE Finney County positivity rate drops to 3%

Red means there are three or more positive, active cases tracked back to an exposure within a classroom. That classroom/school is then closed. 

LaBarbera said the Red is different this school year from last school year in regard to the three or more positive cases tracked back to a classroom. 

"We never had three positives checked back to exposure within a classroom," she said. "We did have some, where we had teachers that ate together and gave it to each other, but no positives within the same classroom were due to exposure in that classroom."

LaBarbera hopes this doesn't happen and believes the Green, Yellow and Red is a good way to communicate to the families what's going on in the classrooms/schools in regard to COVID status. 

The second document is a one-page summary of the high points for COVID-19 information. 

The high points include: 

  • Masks are optional for all staff and students effective July 1. 
  • All public health measures will be followed and daily screenings for staff will continue. The screening can be reevaluated as the school year progresses and will include travel restrictions, quarantine expectation, vaccination protocol, etc.
  • Continued promotion of vaccination opportunities for students and adults. This will be done in collaboration with the Finney County Health Department and school nurses.
  • Hand sanitizing and cleaning supplies will be available for order. 
  • Continued emphasis on hand washing. 
  • Building ventilation will continue to be optimized for the district plan. 
  • Enhances sanitation procedures. 
  • Nurses will continue to monitor for illness, follow COVID protocols. 
  • Students and staff should stay home if sick. 
  • COVID testing will be available at schools by appointment. 
  • Employees will utilize accrued leave if they have to quarantine.

More:USD 452 receives ALA COVID grant for school library

Another high point on the second document was "vaccinations are not required by strongly encouraged", however, board member Jennifer Standley voiced concern on the language used.

"I just don't feel comfortable having the 'but strongly encouraged' on there, because I feel as a district we're giving medical advice and it does go back to the parents on making those decisions unless a vaccination is required by the state," she said. "I'm worried that that puts some liability on us by just stating those three words."

Standley said she said they could put on there that the CDC strongly encourages it, but doesn't feel like the district should be stating that they strongly encourage it. 

"I think it should be up to the parent to weigh the risks on giving their child that vaccine," she said. 

Fellow board member Dana Nanninga also voiced concern over the wording as the bullet point did not specifically state the COVID-19 vaccine, additionally the document itself didn't have COVID-19 in the title. 

"Generally, honestly, that can be interrupted as somewhat vague because it's ...  just Garden City Public Schools Safety Plan, just even that hole it just says vaccinations," she said. "Maybe it needs to be more clearly stated and that a COVID-19 vaccination or something like that, otherwise it's just vaccinations in general."

More:SWKS COVID-19 UPDATE Area sees isolated new COVID cases

Also on the second document there is a section titled learning opportunities which include: 

  • Students will continue to have on-to-one devices and school internet access available. Teachers will continue to incorporate innovative technology use into classroom instruction.
  • IEP teams, which include student's parents, will access unique need of each student and determine if additional supports are necessary to provide that student with their free and appropriate public education. 
  • Virtual learning is available for grades 7-12 through the Garden City Virtual Academy. 
  • Academic and social emotional learning will continue to be a priority for the use of the COVID-19 relief funds.

The third document was a longer, descriptive version of the one-page document.

In other business, the new Board of Education Officers Election was held. Alex Wallace was named President and Janene Radke was named Vice President.