Doctor offers tips for in-class learning

My Melody Vallieu

Miami Valley Today

PIQUA — Piqua City Schools administrators and nurses heard from Premier Health Sports Medicine Dr. Jeff Rayborn about how to move forward with in-class teaching.

Dr. Rayborn, during a Zoom meeting Monday, said he has spent the summer getting kids safely back into sports and following all of the guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of things are not always as bad as they seem, a lot of things are not as good as they seem, but I find things are generally somewhere in between,” said Rayborn, discussing the COVID-19 numbers in the county, state and nation.

Dr. Rayborn said he can even see a future with a mass-produced test where those wishing to attend sporting or other school events pay $5 to get in and $5 for a COVID-19 test that has results in a half hour, so events can include fans.

“Testing that can be mass produced, that is what we are looking for,” he said.

Suggestions Dr. Rayborn has for the school year to begin — and be able to continue in the classroom — include wearing masks, proper cleaning and sanitizing and social distancing.

Piqua City Schools Director of Student Services Mindy Gearhardt said the schools continue to develop their plan leading up to the first day of school on Sept. 8, which will be all day, every day in the classroom. She said they have been working with Miami County Public Health and Premier Health, and that some of Dr. Rayborn’s suggestions already are in place for the new school year.

Dr. Rayborn said that masks will help prevent the spread of the virus, pointing to the fact that surgeons wear masks to protect their patients every day.

“You need to look at the science and you know it protects others,” Dr. Rayborn said.

He said studies show that surgical and cloth masks do well to protect others, while neck gaiters and bandanas did not do as well in testing.

Dr. Rayborn also said schools should have a good cleaning and sanitation plan.

“Concentrate on high traffic and touch areas, such as metal, like door handles,” he said.

Having a good plan for students who are symptomatic also is a priority, Dr. Rayborn said.

He said a nurse’s station is a small area and there could be five to six students sitting next to each other, which could actually cause more issues.

“Have a plan to isolate a kid if they become symptomatic,” he said. “If the weather is nice, find a shady spot outside, a gym, even a bigger room where you can space them out.”

Gearhardt said staff is working with parents to make sure there are multiple contacts to pick a sick child up and working with public health on what to do if a case is found in a student or staff member.

“We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” Gearhardt said.

He also said to have a plan to let the child return to school after they’ve been sent home from with symptoms.

“Require a negative test, a doctor’s note or the 14-day quarantine,” Dr. Rayborn said. “You don’t have to pick just one, maybe all of them might work.”

School nurses also have created a video to share with staff and it will be available on the district’s website at piqua.org soon for parents.

Avoiding crowded hallways also is a good plan, he said, including one direction movement. While some plans might extend the time it takes to switch classes, it might be worth the time, he suggested.

“Why don’t you have a rolling bell system, where kids are released by certain locker numbers, or name, where 20 percent of kids are in hallways at once,” he said.

Gearhardt said some parents also have opted for remote learning for students for the first semester of school and that will help a little with distancing with not as many students in the classroom.

Teachers having students not come up to their desk so much, would be especially helpful with young children, Dr. Rayborn said.

“For older kids, have more digital hand ins,” he said.

For younger children, Dr. Rayborn also suggested having hand sanitizing breaks, have them sanitize on the way in and way out of the classroom and before snacks and lunch.

Leaving the classroom door open so door knobs are not being touched so often will be helpful, as well as providing better air flow in the room, he said.

“Have a routine, be flexible, find out what works and go from there,” Dr. Rayborn said. “If you have the majority of the people doing the right things, it hopefully will go well.”

Dr. Rayborn also suggested staff just pay extra attention at this time.

“You’re going to have to problem solve. Watch the news and know what might have happened at another school system, and then you can make a plan for that,” he said.

Dr. Rayborn said adults should also pay attention to students’ mental health during this trying time.

“There has been a huge increase in depression and anxiety, especially in high school and college-age students,” Dr. Rayborn said. “If you notice someone not acting themselves, don’t be afraid to reach out to a parent or counselor.

Both believe the school year will be a bit of a challenge during this unprecedented time.

“We’re building the plane as we’re flying it,” Gearhardt said of planning for a school year during a pandemic.

Dr. Rayborn agreed.

“It’s probably going to be a bumpy ride, but we can get through this together,” he said.