Granton schools still COVID-free
There have been no cases of COVID-19 reported at the Granton Area School District so far this year, even as recent reports of cases at area school districts has caused some concern among leaders at the district. Watching and waiting, the Granton School is expecting to be able to make a fast response to any cases in the building, and is ready to go virtual if the need arises.
Granton district administrator James Kuchta and principal Amanda Kraus said the past few weeks of school for the students has been pretty uneventful for inperson learning. Although they reported no cases of COVID-19, Kuchta said due to the school’s small numbers, they would be very reluctant to release information regarding an outbreak to the wider public.
“As a small school, we are being very cautious about what information we share,” he said. “With small school numbers, if we release any positive number of cases, it is very easy for a case to be identifi ed. However, we can count ourselves very fortunate. For the 16 days the kids have ben in school, we have had some who have been sick, but from all those kids who were sick, there were no positive cases (of COVID-19) up to this point.”
While there have been no cases so far, Kuchta said the school hasn’t stopped taking precautions. Masks and social distancing have been continually used since the start of the school year, and will be one of the district’s best tools of defense against the virus.
“We have been getting away from students sharing,” he said. “Instead of partnering up or being in groups for hands-on activities, students have had to instead socially distance themselves. Amanda has had a wonderful plan put in place to keep kids distanced. In the field house they have squares marked out in tape. Our band is not practicing closely together, our choir is also spaced. We are getting special masks for singing.”
“We made some changes, podding groups of students, contract tracing if we need to,” added Kraus. “We have had changes to lunch, we have been using other areas besides the lunch room like the central gym for that. We also have great support from the community, they helped purchase picnic tables that we can use for outdoor classroom space when it’s nice out.”
Despite their precautions, Kuchta and Kraus said they know it could only be a matter of time before COVID-19 hits the school. If and when that happens, they said plans are in place to make sure they can trace and quarantine affected kids and staff as fast as possible.
“If contact tracing needs to be done, we have assigned seats on the bus, at lunch and in the classrooms,” said Kuchta. “If we are looking at 20 percent or more students absent, we will have to shut school down. If we have too many staff out, which is more likely, we will have to shut down school sooner. We want to be able to keep our kids in school as long as we can.”
A shortage of staff substitutes is one of the biggest concerns that the district is facing in light of the pandemic. Kuchta said many of these substitutes are afraid of traveling from school to school to work during the pandemic, making it hard to find a replacement for a staff member if they do happen to get sick.
“It was always a challenge, there wasn’t a lot of substitutes to begin with,” he said. “Now there’s substitutes who are reluctant to come to schools, they are reluctant to go from school to school in this environment.”
In this environment, the ability to go virtual on a moment’s notice is important. Kuchta said the district has had students from every grade take part in classes virtually since the start of the school year and has also been working out any issues with the virtual school setting to make it possible to go entirely virtual if the school is shut down.
“We’re ready to go virtually in a one-onone format,” he said. “The final steps are being put in place for a 100 percent virtual school. It’s not the best way to educate our kids. With so many hands-on activities, there’s no way a teacher teaching 15 to 20 kids can do as effective a job as they can in person.”
As the school continues to try to educate the community’s children during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kraus said it is important for parents and other members of the community to be flexible in dealing with issues that may come up in the future.
“We are calling for flexibility,” she said. “We are taking this day by day, week by week, we don’t know what will happen. We are asking parents to be flexible. We are grateful for our parents being so supportive, the virtual parents have been there in supporting our students. Flexibility is key as we continue through this.”