As area public schools ramp up for a COVID-19 reopening, so is Oakwood Christian Academy, a private school in Chickamauga, educating around 300 children.
OAC, says the school’s headmaster, Dr. Daniel Ray, plans to open Aug. 12, and like other schools, has a plan for dealing with COVID-19 issues.
Ray says that OCA does not offer a digital option for parents uncomfortable with in-person schooling unless the entire school is at a very high risk level and online learning is being used for all students.
Around 15 students have withdrawn due to COVID-19 concerns, Ray says. “They’ve mostly been people who have someone in the home whose immune system is compromised and they want to be extra careful.”
For those who are taking extra precautions, Ray says he has worked with parents to help them find online schooling for their children.
But OCA has gained students, too, says Ray, so the student body will number a few more than usual this year.
Extensive precautions are being instituted at the school to keep students, school personnel and those who come into contact with them safe.
“We’ll be disinfecting, wiping down and social distancing based on our four-level alert system,” says Ray. “There are precautions we always take to limit the spread of illnesses like colds and the flu, so we’re already accustomed to being careful.”
The school has purchased two disinfectant fog machines they’ll use twice weekly.
A four-level alert system rates the danger of COVID-19 exposure by color: green for all-clear/proceed as normal, yellow for taking precautions and limiting who comes onto the campus, orange for extreme limitations, and red for high risk and online learning only.
The system outlines procedures and precautions to be taken for everyone from students and teachers to outside visitors, vendors, community groups and in gatherings and athletic situations.
Ray says the current COVID-19 situation is a level yellow. If that’s still the level when school starts, students will be required to have their temperatures taken when they arrive at school and will have to wear masks in “transitioning” situations – from car to classroom, in halls between classes and in settings where the concentration of people is high.
Children will not be required to wear masks in the classroom, says Ray. Teachers will be required to wear masks in the classroom only when they are working one-on-one with students or in close proximity to a student.
The school has installed 12 hand-sanitizing stations that dispense foam sanitizer with a conditioner to help prevent dry skin. They have also installed four water bottle filling stations that attach to and modify water fountains.
Ray says OCA has viewed the current situation as a good time to expand teacher preparedness for other health and safety situations. Teachers have received extra training in first aid and all teachers are CPR and AED certified.
Ray says teachers have been equipped with first aid backpacks instead of the usual lunchbox-size first aid kits they keep on hand and will be able to deal with many issues without sending a child outside the classroom. The backpacks contain 250 items, including masks, goggles, sanitizers and advanced first-aid items.
Numerous other adjustments have been made to the coming school year, says Ray. If the alert level goes to red and school is online only, teachers will face a 20% pay cut. The school year has been cut by eight days, says Ray, so school days have been extended by a short amount of time to meet accreditation requirements.
“We’ll have to keep open minds and make adjustments as circumstances require,” Ray says.