AKRON, Ohio — Kim Kauffmann and Jennifer Hunter, teachers at Rimer Elementary School in Akron, taught on-line for most of last school year, but they're looking forward to in-person instruction resuming at the end of this month.
At the same time, the veteran educators are keeping safety measures-- which they incorporated at the end of the 2020-2021 year—top of mind as they return to classrooms.
"We really felt like being a little more conscious with cleaning and not being so close to one another," Hunter said.
"We've got our Chlorox wipes and all our cleaning supplies and the kids help us clean every day," Kauffmann added.
Debra Foulk, executive director for business affairs for APS, said the district is doing everything possible to bring about 21,000 kids safety back school.
That includes installing new misting/cleaning systems in school buses, extra sanitation in buildings, three feet of social distancing in classrooms, requiring masks indoors for students and staff to start the year, and communicating with parents about COVID-19 symptoms.
"We ask that if they feel their child is ill that they not send the child," Foulk said.
Foulk said the decision to start the school year with masks followed much conversation and a review of federal, state, and local health recommendations. The recent spread of the Delta variant also played a role.
"It seems to spreading at a much more rapid rate," she said.
If positive coronavirus cases are found, Foulk said health officials would be notified and students and teachers could be quarantined if it's determined that social distancing or mask-wearing was not followed. The district will also take into account whether there was possible indoor exposure lasting more than 15 minutes.
"We will start to backtrack exactly where they were in the school. Our teachers are excellent at being able to tell not only who is in their classroom, but exactly where they sit," Foulk said.
The district believes the social distancing and mask requirements will likely limit the number of quarantines, but if those become necessary the quarantine period would last 10 days.
Foulk and the teachers don't feel entire classrooms would face a quarantine, but also cannot rule the possibility with the unpredictable nature of the virus.
"Could it be determined that it may occur? Yes, I can't say that's not a possibility," Foulk said.
Teachers would find other ways, including remote learning, to continue education for any students who are quarantined, district officials said.
The likelihood of possible quarantines could vary within school district buildings due to current vaccine regulations. Students 12-years-old and older can be vaccinated. Those under 12 cannot.
"I'm vaccinated so that makes me feel better about myself, but the kids we have are under 12, so they are not vaccinated and I know we can still carry it and spread it," Kauffmann said.
Regardless of the concerns, Kauffmann and Hunter both said they're excited to start the school and remain hopeful that everyone will stay healthy.
"I think as as long as we we're all doing what we need to do, then we'll all be fine," Hunter said.