FRILLS CORNERS - A common theme for area school boards during the COVID-19 pandemic has been how and when their school can return to classes safely and a revised reopening plan was the main order of business at North Clarion's special school board meeting and workshop Monday (Aug. 3).

The North Clarion school board unanimously approved the school's revised reopening plan.

According to North Clarion Superintendent Steve Young, the district plans to reopen for classes Wednesday, Aug. 28 with students coming to the school for in-person classes five days per week.

Young said that the board's original reopening plan had to be adjusted due to new mandates issued by the state.

"Initially in the green phase, we weren't going to have our students wear masks at all but right after we approved that, Governor Wolf (implemented) the mask mandate," Young said. "We're just going to have students wearing masks during transitional points. We want them wearing the masks on the bus and in the hallway.

"We have the desks in the classrooms separated six feet apart so when the students are in the classroom they will be able to take the masks off. So the majority of the day, the students will have their masks off."

(Editor's note: Since the North Clarion board meeting, the state Department of Education has unveiled another plan that essentially drops the "green, yellow and red" phase designations in favor of a "low-, moderate- and substantial-risk of COVID-19 transmission" model based on each county's infection rate. Those rates were not available at press time but it is believed Clarion County is in the low-risk category and North Clarion's re-opening plan is still operational.)

Young also said North Clarion has adjusted its lunch schedule so the students won't have to wear the masks when they are eating lunch. There was another lunch period added to the high school schedule and the seats in the cafeteria will be separated by six feet.

North Clarion's elementary students will eat lunch at their desks.

Additionally, during the green phase North Clarion will be performing daily temperature checks during the homeroom period. The district encourages parents to keep sick children home.

If a student or staff member feels symptomatic, they are to report to the nurse immediately. The areas used by a sick person will be closed off and not used until it is properly disinfected.

Under the green phase, the district will establish and maintain communication with local and state authorities to determine the mitigation levels in the community.

The Clarion County Health Department will assist with the development of strategies to allow the district's schools to remain open if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in any of the district's buildings. In such a case, there would be an increased education on signs and symptoms of COVID-19 while increasing the monitoring of hygiene, an increased use of masks and an increased enforcement of social distancing.

Young also stated the school will have a full supply of masks and shields available for students to wear. The only supply item which hadn't arrived was the defogger spray for the masks.

There will be no use of communal drinking fountains and students will use water bottles instead of the fountains.

During lunch, students will have individually wrapped utensils provided with meals. There will also be prepackaged condiments and there will be no self-serve options for food items.

North Clarion will also clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the school, school buses and on school grounds at least daily. Moreover, the district wants to ensure the ventilation systems in its buildings are operating properly and doors and windows are to be opened when possible to increase the circulation of outdoor air.

The district's busing plan still needs final approval but at this time, Young stated that there will be around 30 students per run on the morning bus while there will be an estimated 50 students per run in the afternoon. However, Young believes extracurricular activities will drastically cut the number of students needing busing in the afternoon.

Students will be assigned to one family per seat on the buses. For parents and guardians who transport their children by car, there will be extended drop-off and pickup times at the school.

All of North Clarion's reopening plans are subject to change.

For any parents or students with questions regarding the reopening, they can go to the school's website and click on the link for the districts daily Zoom meetings regarding the elementary or the high school.

North Clarion is also providing an all online option for students as well. Young stated about 1 percent of the student population has signed up for the all online option.

According to Young, the elementary online classes would be done through Google Classroom while high school students would do some of their classwork through Google Classroom while also using the Edgenuity online curriculum.

North Clarion has been hosting summer camps for elementary and high school students which has been able to give students and faculty a taste of what the district's reopening plan will look like in regards to social distancing and mask wearing.

During the workshop portion of the meeting, the replacement of a sidewalk on school grounds was discussed.