M-U BOE considers plan for re-opening

By Matt Clevenger

Miami Valley Today

WEST MILTON — Members of the Milton-Union Schools Board of Education held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss a draft version of the district’s re-opening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

“It is a draft,” Superintendent Dr. Brad Ritchey said, “so it is subject to change.”

Board members will vote on a final version of the re-opening plan during their next regularly scheduled meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 20.

The draft version of the plan provides for three different types of instruction, based on the current Coronavirus threat level. While the threat level remains at Level 1 or Level 2, the district would follow a relatively traditional schedule with added social distancing requirements; if the threat level increases to Level 3, the district would switch to a hybrid plan. If the threat level increases to Level 4, the district would switch to a fully-remote plan.

“If we absolutely need to, then we would go fully-remote, facilitated by our teachers,” Dr. Ritchey said. “I want to be able to switch to that immediately.”

Under the plan, students would start school after Labor Day to provide additional time for faculty and staff to prepare the building. Field trips and large student gatherings would be prohibited and parent conferences or meetings would be held remotely. Students would also be prohibited from sharing school supplies.

Several areas in the school buildings would also be re-worked in order to accommodate social distancing requirements. Cafeteria areas may have to be expanded into other areas of the school.

“We may have to go into some adjacent spaces,” operations manager Dan Baisden said. “We may have to limit the number of kids can sit at a table.”

“We’ll have to have a quarantine space,” Dr. Ritchey said. School staff and visitors to school buildings would be required to wear face coverings, and board members will vote at their next meeting to decide if face coverings should be recommended or required for students. Face coverings could also be required for students riding busses.

Several Milton-Union teachers attended the meeting, speaking in support of requiring student face coverings. “We will make it work,” teacher Pegge Lange said. “As a district we should be erring on the side of caution.”

“This is temporary,” board vice-president Ben Dehus said. “It is not a new normal.”

Following all recommended guidelines, including requiring masks, could help reduce the district’s insurance liability. Requiring student face coverings could also help reduce the number of students who would be quarantined in the event of an outbreak.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” district treasurer Kay Altenburger said. “Potentially there would be liability.”

“Our legal council has said the more things you follow, the less likelihood that you would be found liable.” Altenburger said.

“We can’t go wrong if we come down on the side of student safety,” Dr. Ritchey said.