Council Bluffs Community Schools will make a lot of adjustments because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hybrid learning phase the district will likely start classes in this fall.
Student lunch schedules, cafeteria safety measures and food distribution are among the things that will change. More lunch periods will be added at secondary schools to divide the student population into smaller groups, Superintendent Vickie Murillo said during Tuesday’s board of education meeting. Seating will be limited to two or three students per table.
Plastic wrap will be used in elementary school cafeterias to separate students on opposite sides of the tables. The plastic will be thrown away after each use and a new strand stretched across, and some meals will have to be sent home with students.
Since students will be attending school every other day, breakfast and lunch for their off days will be sent home with them in Go-Home Kits at the end of the day, said Lisa Stewart, director of nutrition services, during a presentation to the board. Tuesday-Thursday students will receive those meals for Wednesday and Friday, and Wednesday-Friday students will receive take-home meals for Thursday and Saturday.
“The hybrid model is complex for meal distribution,” she said.
The entire district will continue to be eligible for the Community Eligibility Program, so students will not have to pay for meals. However, students will receive a card with a bar code that will need to be scanned whenever they receive a meal, Stewart said. This will take the place of students typing in their ID numbers when they get a meal.
“Scanning cards is a way to remove a touch point during meal service, and we still have a way to account for who had a meal if audited,” she said. “Under (the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program), we have to have names and ID numbers to give out meals.”
That was not the case with the Summer Food Service Program, which will close Aug. 1, Stewart said.
Staff will practice social distancing in the kitchens and other safety precautions, Stewart said.
“Our kitchen staff will be wearing masks during food distribution,” she said.
At schools that do not have commercial dishwashers, disposable trays will be used, Stewart said. Previously, reusable trays from those buildings were taken to schools with fully equipped kitchens for washing.
“We will not be hauling dirty trays from building to building,” she said.
Pre-packaged food will be available at designated buildings in Council Bluffs and Carter Lake for students enrolled in the Virtual Academy, Stewart said. Five days of breakfasts and lunches will be distributed on Mondays at locations yet to be determined — likely schools with plenty of cooler space.
Cleaning and sanitizing will be a high priority. The Facilities, Maintenance and Custodial Services Department has developed a comprehensive cleaning plan, said Travis Martin, director of the department.
Custodial staff will conduct deep cleaning every night, Martin said. Workers will use Victory electrostatic sprayers to make sure disinfectant clings to objects. The district currently has 19 hand-held electrostatic sprayers, four backpack sprayers and has ordered five more hand-held and three more backpack sprayers, which are expected to arrive before school starts.
The district also has 1,400 spray bottles that teachers and staff can use during the school day, and more have been ordered, he said.
Custodial staff are being trained on the electrostatic sprayers, sanitizers and personal protective equipment, Martin said.
“We want to fully equip our staff to be able to do a good job,” he said.
The district is ordering 750 touchless paper towel dispensers to minimize high-touch surfaces. Martin also hopes to increase the number of motion-activated faucets. New bottle fillers will be installed, and old ones will be disabled. Both portable and wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations are being installed.
Clear plastic partitions will be installed at certain places in the buildings.
Signs will be installed to limit traffic to one way in many places and encourage distancing, Martin said. The department will consult with HVAC vendors to determine whether more restrictive filters can be used and will also investigate the feasibility of installing ultraviolet sanitizing systems. Barriers may be used with students in preschool and kindergarten.
The school district will continue to partner with First Student for bus transportation, according to Tim Hamilton, chief of student and family services. First Student will screen their employees, and drivers and monitors will wear masks. They will encourage distancing and have windows open whenever possible. Students will be able to get hand sanitizer from touchless dispensers as they board the bus.
The district will also try to strengthen social-emotional support for students, Hamilton said.
“We want everybody to be safe, but the social-emotional part is we want them to feel safe, too,” he said.
The district will have two or more supportive adults — counselors, behavior specialists, etc. — in each school building, Hamilton said. Student support teams will be formed. School-based therapists will also be available. Staff will continue training on trauma-informed schools, and the district will make mindfulness sessions available for teachers.
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