FLOYD COUNTY — Students will be required to wear masks at New Albany-Floyd County at school this fall, according to the district’s plan for reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NAFC school board voted 6-1 to endorse the administration’s reopening plan for the fall at Monday’s board meeting, with board member Jenny Higbie opposing.
The board and school administration debated and made changes to the proposed plan prior to the meeting during a work session, particularly policies regarding students wearing masks at school.
The board agreed to adjust the plan to require students to wear a face covering, mask or face shield at all times unless they are able to appropriately social distance, which will be determined by the teacher and/or staff member. Staff will be required to wear a face covering when social distancing is unlikely or unreasonable.
The administration originally presented a proposed plan that would strongly recommend wearing of face coverings for students and require face coverings for staff, but after debate among school board members during the work session, they switched to requiring masks on a conditional basis.
The district’s first day of school will be July 29. The school calendar has not been changed at this point.
Many residents voiced their concerns about the school’s reopening plan during public comment, and many letters to the school board were read during the meeting. Many expressed support or opposition to requiring masks in school, with some parents on both sides of the argument saying the district’s decision will influence their decision to keep their kid enrolled in the school district.
NAFC Superintendent Brad Snyder said it’s going to be a “tough year” as the district adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Doing the best in this case is important, and it’s complex,” he said. “It’s really tough. The guidance that we were given three, four weeks ago was to develop a plan and work with your school board, work with your county health department, work with your teachers, work with your staff, work with your legal counsel, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Some board members disagreed whether the mask requirement for students should include elementary schools. Higbie cited her concerns about younger kids being required to wear masks as a reason for voting against the endorsement of the plan. She originally planned to support the re-entry plan before the revisions, but she has safety concerns about children ages 11 and younger being able to properly wear masks.
School board member Lee Ann Wiseheart said she is concerned about safety above students’ compliance with mask policies, and she would only support a plan that protects both students and teachers.
NAFC will offer both in-person and virtual options for the school year. Snyder said the administrations wants as many kids to come back to physical school as possible, but he recognizes that many families are not ready for their kids to return to an in-person setting.
Snyder said “there’s a lot to unpack” with the reopening plan. School lunches is one of the items addressed in the plan — while some schools have enough square footage to practice social distancing within the cafeteria, others schools will have to use the cafeteria and the gym for kids to stay at a safe distance, he said.
Temperature checks for students is one of the major items in the plan — nurses and health aides will visit classrooms on a daily basis to check students’ temperatures at random. If students are not feeling well, they are asked to stay home. Water fountains will be closed off, and students will have to fill water bottles at contactless dispensers.
“This document is not a conclusion,” Snyder said. “It’s nowhere close to a conclusion. It’s only a beginning. What I’ve been saying is that this is our first-day-back-to-school document, and I don’t even know if that’s true at the rate things are changing.”
The revised reopening plan will be send to NAFC parents this week in an email, according to Bill Briscoe, NAFC Assistant to the Superintendent for Administration and Operations.