Social distancing in common spaces is big focus for area schools

CLARK COUNTY — Schools districts are working to safely social distance students in every common space within buildings as the clock ticks down to the first day of classes.

Northwestern Local Schools in Clark County has incorporated the practice into nearly every room between the district’s elementary school and junior/senior high school.

Large group tables in the elementary school classrooms have been replaced with individual desks. The desks are then spaced five feet apart – from the middle of the desk to the middle of the adjacent desk.

In the junior and senior high school, the desks are six feet apart, and their schedules will be shifted so classes will have fewer students.

The district has ordered over 500 plexiglass dividers for rooms where social distancing may be more difficult because of the room’s layout.

“So when our kids are in close proximity to other students and with their teacher, we’ve got the plexiglass divider and we’ve got the face mask on,” Northwestern Superintendent Jesse Steiner told News Center 7′s Jenna Lawson.

In the junior and senior high cafeteria, there are only three chairs at each table. The room can have 124 students in it at a time, while the elementary cafeteria can have 90.

It’s probable that some students may have to eat lunch in their classrooms.

But Steiner also said kids won’t be forced to sit in their classroom all day with a mask on and surrounded by a barricade – there will still be recess and gym class where kids can be active.

In the elementary school gymnasium, eight-foot squares will be sectioned off where students can safely do exercises or even play games with each other like Four Square or passing a soccer ball.

During recess, the district has identified three distinct play areas outside where kids can play with others in their classroom – one classroom per area.

Steiner admits one of the biggest challenges of these new protocols will be to make sure the youngest students understand and follow them.

He said the first few weeks of school will be devoted to teaching kids proper hygiene, good handwashing and social distancing. Steiner also encouraged families to practice similar methods at home to make sure the school can stay open for as long as possible.

“We’re working to hard to make sure that it’s safe for students to return -- that means safe for our students, safe for our staff. We’re doing everything within our powers, but we all need to be patient. We need to work together,” he said.

Northwestern has about 10 percent of its student population that will be going back to school online next semester. The district says fewer kids in the physical building has made it slightly easier to socially distance the remaining students.

Jenna Lawson

I grew up in Springfield and I'm a big fan of all things Springfield, including Schuler's & the Clark County Fair. A career in journalism never really was a serious thought until the end of high school. You just have epiphanies sometimes, and that's the only way I can explain why I got into this line of work – but I'm happier for it!