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"Masks are the most controversial"

School district's COVID-19 Coordinator responds to re-opening concerns

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
September 10, 2020
WHITEFIELD — The SAU 36 District Leadership team held a virtual question and answer session on Sept. 3. Leading the charge was District Covid-19 Coordinator, Lisa Miller R.N.

Miller began her presentation by recognizing that there are some individuals who feel comfortable with school reopening, and others who might have underlying health conditions who are a bit more apprehensive.

She then went on to explain what Covid-19 is, and how it affects people in varying ways.

"Some people have mild cases, some are asymptomatic and others show more sever symptoms, and some cases may result in death," she explained.

She went on to explain how the disease is primarily transmitted through air droplets by talking, coughing or sneezing.

Miller then rolled out the current data, stating, "Right now, there are 25 million cases worldwide, six million in the United States, but 18 cases since March in Coös County, with no reported deaths. We're the only county in the state to not have a death. Right now, we have one active case in the county, so this is a great time for the kids to get back into school."

The school district is following the NHDHHS guidelines, and are mandated to do so, in order for school to reopen.

"We have many layers of prevention; however, each layer has holes, which is why each layer on top of one another can close those gaps," she said.

The first layer is that every staff member and student will be screened at home.

"I know up north, we have that Yankee attitude where we just power through things and work when we are sick, but those days are long gone," said Miller.

"Anyone showing any sign of Covid will be sent home," she added.

If a student or staff member has a temperature of 100.4, they must remain at home.

Social distancing will take place with students staying six feet apart as much as possible. If a student tests positive and contact tracing is utilized assigned seating will help in finding out which individuals may be at risk. There will be no middle stalls or sinks used in bathrooms, and there will be a limit to those using the bathroom.

There will be hall monitors to ensure that students remain six feet apart. Busses will permit 24 students per bus, and will be staggered.

"Young kids and some special education students may have trouble social distancing, and we're not going to put the hammer on them, we're going to work with students as much as possible the first few weeks," said Miller.

She added, "Younger students may need help tying shoes, or zipping a jacket, in those cases social distancing is not possible but will be cut short, the rule is no more than ten minutes."

"Face coverings are the most controversial, yet the most preventative way we can stop the spread," said Miller.

She went on to say, "We are following DHHS guidelines, and masks must be worn a all times unless you are eating, drinking or taking a mask break."

Miller relayed that the masks must cover the nose and the mouth, and cannot have a vent or valve on it. Masks will need to be stored in paper bags when not being worn. Ziplock bags are not permitted due to moisture.

"Valves and vents defeat the purpose of the mask," said Miller.

Face shields may be worn, but only when accompanied by a mask.

Children under the age of two, or anyone who is incapacitated and cannot remove a mask without assistance, is exempt from the mask rule.

To that, Miller said, "If you have a medical condition, you must see a physician and come in with a written note. If you are unable to wear a mask because of a medical condition, you are probably too high risk to be in school and should consider learning remotely."

There will be regularly scheduled mask breaks.

HVAC systems have been evaluated throughout the district, and any school that had systems that did not meet requirements, were provided with HEPA filters.

Free meals will be provided for everyone under the age of 18, whether they are learning in person, or remotely. There will be pickup locations in each town. More information on this will be forthcoming.

Martin Lord & Osman
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