JACKSON TWP. Stark County school districts have started their fall semesters and most of the schools are open, or preparing for, in-person and online learning. For those participating in the in-person learning, new sanitizing and safety guidelines are in place for students, staff, parents and visitors.

Jackson Local Schools is one of the districts in the county offering in-person classes. When the district surveyed parents during the summer, the returned surveys showed that 70 percent of the district’s parents wanted in-person classes. Jackson’s Restart Plan includes the in-person option as well as an eLearning option and a digital academy option.

For the in-person option, the administration and staff at Jackson has been busy with implementing practices and procedures to adhere to the CDC safety guidelines.

"We have many practices in place for the school year such as all the water fountains in all buildings will be turned off but the water filling stations to fill water bottles will be left on," said Director of Communications Todd Porter. "Most desks will be six feet apart where possible. There may be some classrooms that will more difficult to socially distance and that’s why we are requiring all students to wear masks."

The district has also installed more than 400 hand sanitizing dispensers on the walls in common areas of the buildings and in classrooms. Each teacher has been given a care kit with masks, shields and two 32-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer.

Porter said clear plastic dividers have been installed in certain areas such in the attendance office, lunch line and at some teachers’ desks. Some teachers have requested the plastic dividers while others have opted to go without them.

"The district is mindful of high touch areas and we are taking extra steps to keep those areas cleaned and sanitized. For example, we are wiping down handrails on a regular basis and the water filling stations will be continually sanitized," Porter said.

Each building will receive enhanced cleaning every night including disinfecting the classrooms as well as having the desks, chairs and other areas wiped down. Porter said many of the classified staff have offered to help the custodial staff with the added cleaning duties and procedures.

The cafeteria will have students spread out during lunch periods. The district is utilizing all open areas in each building such as gyms, the commons area in the high school, the senior patio and other areas to space the students apart during lunch. Students are required to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking.

In addition to students being required to wear a mask on the bus, changes include encouraging all of the students coming from the same house sit together; students will be loaded from the back to the front of the bus when getting on; there will only be two students per seat and while the district does not control the bus stops, it is encouraging students to wear masks while waiting for the bus to come.

All in-person and eLearning students will be issued new ID cards with Radio Frequency Identification (RFI). Students can use the cards to get on and off the bus; pay for lunch and check items out of the library.

"We want parents to know that we can not track their students with these ID cards. The cards are to eliminate the need for students to touch keypads for activities like checking out library books or paying for their lunch," Porter said.

If a student loses or forgets the ID card, they get a temp card for the day and will have to purchase another card to replace the card they lost.

To cut down on hallway traffic during dismissal, Jackson is also staggering the way classes are dismissed. Porter said the district is planning to dismiss the furthest away class first and then work forward.

A few other new practices include students will be directed to practice social distancing on the playgrounds and computers in common areas like libraries will be wiped and cleaned between users.

"The district has been working on ideas all summer," Porter said. "We know we can not treat this school year as a normal school year. All of us have to work together to make this year as safe as it can possibly be. Our decisions are made with safety at the top of our minds for students, teachers and staff. Those decisions include offering learning choices to meet each of our families uniquely were they are right now and making sure the in-person students are kept safe by following the CDC guidelines."

Porter said the most important things students, staff, teachers and parents can do include:

• Stay home if sick

• Wash hands

• Maintain social distancing

• Wear facial masks

• Cover coughs and sneezes

"If we can do those things, we have the best chance of staying healthy and keeping the schools open," Porter said.

Jackson Local Schools have made many changes and additions when getting ready to open to students for the 2020 fall semester. Students, staff, teachers, parents and visitors will quickly notice the many signs posted in the school buildings encouraging everyone to follow the guidelines to stop the spread of germs. Plus, there are wall mounted and standalone dispensers of hand sanitizer throughout all the buildings.