COVID-19 response plan updated for GCHS

Meghan Flynn
The main entrance for Garden City High School is located on the southwest side of the building.

An updated COVID-19 Response Plan for Garden City High School was approved at the regular Unified School District 457 Board of Education meeting Monday.

Steve Nordby, GCHS principal, said the changes are to make pieces of the protective procedures applicable through all six levels, so that they wouldn’t change too much each time an operating level changed.

“We wanted to start with things that would stick throughout most of the levels,” he said.

The changes begin at Level 2.

At Level 2, masks are still recommended, not required, and visitors are required to complete a health screening before they can enter the building. Temperature checks are built in due to the governor’s order.

Procedures have been put in place for Zero Hour, Nordby said, students at the building during Zero Hour for things like student council, chemistry, English, government, marching band, etc., will all have specified doors to enter through.

The morning routine has also changed, Nordby said, the building traditionally has opened around 6:20 a.m., it will now open no earlier than 7 a.m.

“Immediately that change will be necessitated through because of temperature checks, but we also thought just because of the grouping of kids and monitoring of students we didn't feel that opening at 6:20 a.m. was still appropriate,” he said.

Breakfast will still be served in the commons, but will be a grab-n-go style.

When the commons start to fill up in the morning, students will be seated in the gym area, but when teachers arrive around 7:20 a.m., the students will be sent toward their first-hour class.

All staff and students will complete a health questionnaire each day through a Google Form, Nordby said. It will inquire about their health and if they’ve been in contact with someone who may be awaiting the results of a test for COVID-19.

“The reason we're using a Google Form is because we can have a setting where our nurses are immediately identified if a student answers yes to any of the health questionnaire questions,” he said. “Then we can immediately begin tracking kids down and trying to figure out what's the reason for the yes on their health questionnaire.”

Changes were also made in regards to passing in the hallways, Nordby said. Masks are recommended at Level 2 and students are encouraged to go straight to class.

To reduce hallway congestion, students who are going to the opposite side of the building will be encouraged to do so outdoors via the sidewalk.

“That's going to be a change for us, it'll be a change in our normal procedures, but that'll help us reduce congestion in our hallways during passing,” Nordby said.

Water fountains will not be available during passing periods and other times, Nordby said. The filling stations will be, but not the fountains, so students are encouraged to bring water bottles.

In the cafeteria, students will be spread out and not allowed to sit side-by-side, directly across from each other or at full tables of 10, they will be tables of four or five.

More tables will be added to make this possible and some hallways, the track above the gym and the commons will be utilized for more space.

Weather permitting, students will be encouraged to eat outside, Nordby said. Picnic tables have been ordered for the cement area right outside of the commons.

Curriculum- and classroom-wise, the schedule will be normal, Nordby said, but starting at Level 2, they’ll start with assigned seats and social distancing when possible and masks when that’s not possible.

Hand washing and/or sanitizing is recommended before and after class, the start and end of class and before and after lunch shifts.

Desks and shared equipment will be sanitized regularly.

At the end of the day, all students must be out of the building by 3:15 p.m.

Nordby said they are considering releasing students who take the bus a little early to reduce hallway congestion. It will be decided upon after the first week of classes.

Additional pick-up locations are recommended, as not everyone needs to be picked up at the front door, Nordby said.

“If everyone's trying to pick up at the front door within the first half an hour of school being dismissed, traffic's going to be backed up pretty far,” he said.

Classes like band, choir, orchestra and theater will have to change how they are operated. There are going to have to be fewer people in each classroom due to guidelines from the National Federal of High Schools, KSHSAA and results from the Colorado State University Aerosol Study, Nordby said.

“According to those guidelines, the maximum number of people in the choir classroom while they're doing their thing is 15, orchestra is much less than normal and band I think is a maximum of around 50 players plus percussion,” he said. “That's going to change how we operate first-hour large groups ... We've got a lot of changes to make with that.”

Physical education classes, weather permitting, will be outside whenever possible and not every student will get a P.E. locker, Nordby said. They’re not going to require every student to change for some of the P.E. classes to reduce the grouping of students in small areas.

In Level 3, the big change is masks will be required right away for all students, staff and visitors at all times with the exceptions of eating, participation in an approved mask break or participation in physical activities or activities that are difficult to do while wearing a mask, Nordby said.

Masks will also be required for students while in the hallways at Level 3, rather than recommended.

In Level 4, the library will be closed to students, and if there is a concert or any kind of large event, there will be a restricted audience.

In Level 5, when the district goes to an AB day rotation, where only half of the school’s population is on-site, the split at GCHS will be last names beginning with A-L and M-Z.

Another change at Level 5 is during remote days as part of the AB day rotation, students will be held accountable for attendance and grading will proceed as if in a normal school setting.

Desks will all be 6 feet apart, all face the same direction, seats are assigned, no-face-to-face grouping and any small groups in class must maintain the 6-foot distance.

There will also be mandatory hourly hand washing and/or sanitizing. It will also be mandatory before and after lunch.

At Level 6, everything is remote and all content will be delivered online via Google Classroom, Showbie and Edgenuity, Nordby said.

“Once again, students will be held accountable for attendance and grading will proceed as it would on a regular school setting,” he said.

There will also be regular school communications through Remind, no extracurricular activities or events and no students in the building. Staff building access will be coordinated through a supervisor.