Superintendent responds

Published 12:09 pm Friday, May 22, 2020

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It’s too soon to know how schools will have to reopen

COLUMBUS—With word recently that schools could reopen a week earlier this summer, some have taken to social media to discuss proposed Centers for Disease Control guidelines of how schools should reopen.

Many people have disagreed with how the guidelines are focused, particularly with any suggestion of students having to wear face coverings.

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The Bulletin reached out to Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene this week for his thoughts on how local schools will reopen, with Greene responding that it’s too soon to tell.

“You may have already seen the latest CDC reopening guidance, or perhaps you have looked at other states’ plans regarding school this fall,” Greene said Thursday. “I want to say again that we have not received any final version or rules on a reopening plan. I do not anticipate any type of clear guidance for the immediate future. Ultimately, we are committed to doing all we can to reopen safely and successfully this fall within the rules and guidance we are given.”

State officials have announced that they plan on opening schools a week earlier this summer, on Aug. 17 instead of the previous date of Aug. 24.

Greene said the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Instruction are working on what school will look like this fall and there are state committees and groups focused on the various questions and issues related to safely reopening. But they are only beginning to build the plan, he said.

“My advice to everyone at this point is consistent with what we have said all along,” Greene said. “Let’s be patient and wait for the decisions to be made before we react to possibilities. Our Board and district leaders have to engage in some speculation on what is to come so we can provide input, help our state leaders understand the challenges and problems that we face, and be prepared to handle changes or unforeseen issues. The CDC is trying to assist states, cities, and school districts by issuing broad guidance for consideration across the entire country. Making a plan that fits every district and situation is impossible, just like comparing New York City’s schools to Polk County Schools is impossible.”

Greene said the county simply has to wait for things to be decided from the state agencies. And until then, everything is speculation.

“As hard as it is not to worry right now, I think getting frustrated or upset about what might happen before we really know would not be very productive,” he said. “It will only cause more anxiety, which we already have plenty of.”

Greene did say he thinks there will be some procedural precautions and changes to operations when schools reopen to keep students, families and staff members safe.

“Just as we have seen in stores and other public places there will need to be thought given to how we gather, interact and how we deal with students and staff who may become ill,” Greene said. “We are thinking ahead, we are concerned about keeping everyone safe and we are awaiting the guidance and rules that will inevitably come from the state agencies that support and govern our work. As we start to receive more concrete information that we can release we will update everyone.”

Greene thanked students and families in dealing with a great deal of uncertainty over the past 2 months.

“We appreciate the patience and support we have received from everyone,” he said. “Polk County is such a special place.”

He encouraged everyone to enjoy their Memorial Day weekend and to put down Missouri’s reopening plan and understand that even the CDC guidance is constantly changing and will likely be different in August.

“As a wise mentor once told me, ‘Aaron, don’t freak out until it’s time to freak out,’” Greene said. “No matter what is decided Polk County Schools will be right here ready to serve our students and families in the safest and most productive way possible. Better days are ahead.”