School is looking a little bit different for students as they return to Nicol Road for Campus-Based Instruction.
"The kids are coming back and having to re-orient as they learn about the adjustments we've made to prevent the spread of Covid on campus," said Covid-19 Response Coordinator Tna Meyerhoff.
Besides the mandatory wearing of masks, walking to class will be more circuitous, with one-way hallways and designated entrances and exits. Ventilation systems were tuned up this summer to maximize outside air intake, and students will notice windows and doors open during classes. White tents dot the campus because music classes and lunch will be held outdoors. Two libraries, the OES Chapel, and the Athletics office are now makeshift classrooms. Arrival and departure times for students are staggered by division to minimize crowding. And there's hand sanitizer everywhere. Lots of hand sanitizer.
"It's kind of like going to school outdoors every day!" said Meyerhoff. "We are telling the kids to wear lots of layers and asking them to be adaptive because school will definitely feel a little different than it was a year ago. This has been a year-long lesson in flexibility and creativity, and that challenge will continue as we inevitably will face more changes."
Meyerhoff said mask-wearing has not been an issue amongst students and that, in fact, younger students, especially, "don't seem to think much" about having to wear them. "Nearly a year into the pandemic, masks are just another item of clothing we all wear," she said.
Student temperatures are monitored closely for illness and anyone who is sick will be sent home immediately.
"I don't think there is a parent out there who, in previous years, hasn't said to their kid, 'Okay, if you have a bit of a sore throat, just take a Tylenol and you'll be fine at school,' and that might have been okay in normal times," said Meyerhoff. "But we just can't do that this year. We all need to be extra cautious about illness. We really appreciate all of the families who are being super careful and keeping their kids home if they have even the slightest of Covid symptoms. This is the sort of caution we need to keep kids in school."
Meyerhoff said there are also conversations about activities outside of OES and "how the choices we make can really impact" the community. "I keep reminding everyone that the research indicates that there is virtually no transmission when people are outside, wearing their masks, and maintaining some distance," she said. "If you want to gather with friends, outside is the safest place to be!"
With a background in risk management, Meyerhoff is a natural point person for campus contract tracing and coordinating the school's activities with the county and state health departments.
"Anyone who has or potentially has Covid will hear from one of us on campus," she said. "We're going to ask questions to ensure we understand the situation and assess how we can mitigate any potential risks to our campus community. Opening school is important, but keeping children in school during a pandemic requires a community effort. We are all more dependent upon one another to stay healthy."
If you have any questions, please contact the Covid Response Team at COVIDemail@example.com.