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Schools Coronavirus

Monday was Lansing's first day of school.  At the Board of Education meeting Monday evening school administrators reported that months of planning seemed to be paying off, and that students were adapting to COVID-19 social distancing, face masks and other safety rules, but, above all, were happy to be back in school.  Superintendent Christine Pettograsso said administrators had some anxiety about whether students would be able to keep masks on during the school day, but she and other administrators remarked on how naturally students handled it.

"You can see kids smiling right through their masks, which is awesome," High School Principal Patrick Hornbrook. "At the high school level I was pleasantly surprised with how, just how excited kids were to be around one another and back in the building. And they all seem to be excited, but not nervous. I thought there would be a lot of anxiety and it seemed very natural given the circumstances."

Pettograsso said that Monday's success was due to months of careful planning.  She visited all three school buildings Monday, and said she was appreciative of teachers and staff pitching in, as well as for families being patient as new procedures were tried for the first time.

"Part of our success definitely has been that we started our entire planning based on social distancing and having half of our population here really made it doable," Pettograsso said. "We have that in place and now we're moving forward. Our goal as we move forward in the coming months is to increase the amount of time people are on campus and not decrease it. We're really hopeful for that. And a big piece of that is maintaining the health and safety of our community, of our faculty and staff, so we have people here to help support our students and be here."

Some parents commented that new drop-off procedures, especially at the middle school, should be continued after the pandemic has passed.

"We welcomed about 140 students today, and we were a little bit nervous about the drop-off and it went very well," reported Middle School Principal Christine Rebera. "The traffic patterns were great. I've spoken to at least 10 people who said, 'we need to do this all the time, because it's much better for entering the building than what we used to do'.  The students came in through individual doors for their grade level, and there was a lot of teamwork helping get everyone checked in, get temperatures checked, making sure the students knew where to go, especially fifth graders, because they were new to the building."

Pettograsso said that new procedures developed for COVID-19 mitigation are being looked at for future use.

"The things that administrators are seeing that are going well, they're looking at so we can continue those practices in any type of environment that we have.  So we're learning a lot.  When you're forced to make changes, you're able to see things more clearly that you may not have been able to see before," she said.

The principals allowed that there are still kinks to work out, especially with online learning tools.  Not all students come to school in person, and those who do only do so two days a week to provide enough classroom space to accommodate social distancing.  But in general administrators were pleased with their first day of school under pandemic rules.

"Lunchtime was one of our kind of bigger concerns, you know, bigger kids kind of wondering if we're all gonna wanna follow the social distancing rules and wearing masks," Hornbrook said. "And I was pleasantly surprised at how well our students did today and how well our faculty did as well."

Pettograsso said that required services that may be unique to certain students are being provided, and that includes childcare.  The district has space for 200 children, and Pettograsso said that around 80 children are currently being serviced (with child care when they are not in school).  Before school began there was some flurry to get extra space in the community for childcare.  Pettograsso said Monday that at the current level childcare can be provided on the school campus.

"Ron Frost, our child care director, has been working tirelessly with Lorri Whiteman to make sure that we have enough people, with the way we're having to socially distance and manage our classrooms. The need for teacher assistant or aides is not exactly the same. So teacher aides have jumped in to be childcare workers and provide virtual learning, and help support our students in that type of role."

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