Mechanicsburg superintendent: Schools to ‘operate at 100% capacity with safety protocols in place’

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools is using county health levels to help make progress on their reopening plans for the fall, including mask guidelines, the district’s superintendent said in a video.

“The local health department has reviewed and approved a set of common guidelines for all of Champaign County to reopen at 100% capacity,” said Superintendent Danielle Prohaska. “These guidelines will now help us with what each learning level will look like across our buildings and in our district.”

The district is planning to start school on Aug. 24 with learning level 1, which is 100% capacity using safety protocols, Prohaska said.

“As long as Champaign County stays at a learning level of yellow (1) or orange (2), we will operate at 100% capacity with safety protocols in place,” she said. “Should your family need an alternative option other than face-to-face learning, an eLearning option will be available.”

One parent who has a third and sixth grader said there is still “so much” families don’t know yet.

“I struggle to understand how there can be a structured learning environment in such a fluid situation. As numbers fluctuate, we simply don’t know if the kids will be on campus or remote learning from one week to the next… that’s stressful,” said Maggie Medors.

ExploreMechanicsburg schools to develop 4 learning levels for fall reopening

Even with the unknowns of in-person learning, Medors said the eLearn option comes with its own set of unknowns as well.

“Every parent right now is stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “I’m still on the fence. I don’t know what’s best, and I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a decision.”

Another parent who has a preschooler and sixth grader also said she doesn’t know what her learning choice will be for the fall yet either.

“They still have not chosen who was accepted for preschool, and to be honest I don’t know if I would feel comfortable sending him,” said Carla Smurthwaite. “I personally don’t feel it’s safe for my sixth grader to attend, and luckily, we have the ability to assist my son at home with eLearning.”

Prohaska said those that attend in person will be required to wear masks on school buses, in hallways and in other locations where social distancing will not be possible.

“The district will be creating masking optional zones and masking zones throughout the schools,” she said. “In a masking optional zone, masks are encouraged but they’re not required. Masking zones, like the bus and the hallways, will make masking required.”

ExploreGraham schools propose new start date

Classrooms will be “prioritized” to be set up as masking optional zones, Prohaska said.

“We will create an environment that promotes acceptance around masking options,” she said.

Medors said she knows masks are a controversial issue, but she doesn’t see the point in requiring them.

“I personally don’t see the point in requiring masks in hallways and communal areas if they won’t be required in the classrooms. And if not required in classrooms, why bother requiring them on the bus?” she said.

Smurthwaite also said she feels the mask guidelines will be hard to follow for some students.

“I believe the schools are doing their best with the mask guideline. However, I have a feeling this will be hard to abide by,” she said. “I don’t believe that any amount of preparation that the schools can do can keep the kids social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing/sanitizing as it is recommended.”

Prohaska said two surveys will be sent out in the coming weeks to help prepare and plan out more details for the fall, including one for eLearning and one for transportation.

Ohio Public Health Advisory System – Mechanicsburg Learning Levels

Level 1 Public Emergency (yellow): Active exposure and spread – 100% capacity face-to-face learning

Level 2 Public Emergency (orange): Increased exposure and spread, exercise high degree of caution – 100% capacity face-to-face learning with increased safety protocols as needed at the local district level

Level 3 Public Emergency (red): Very high exposure and spread, limit activities as much as possible – Hybrid approach to learning including reduced capacity face-to-face learning and remote learning (approximately 50% capacity) or hybrid approach to learning including small groups face-to-face learning and remote learning for most (approximately 25% capacity)

Level 4 Public Emergency (purple): Severe exposure and spread, only leave home for supplies and services – Remote learning for all

About the Author