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Donahue Updates Board On Athletics, Screenings

Even three weeks into the school year, Southwestern Central School District Superintendent Maureen Donahue understands that the reality of education amid COVID-19 is not perfect.

“I don’t ever want us to get too used to this and it’s not perfect,” she told members of the districts board of education during Tuesday night’s work session. “There are things every day that we have to think about and do differently. Remote isn’t always easy to implement. We have kids at home that are working through some of those things, but I have to say is that everybody really is going above and beyond.”

Still, Donahue said the district is continuing to do its due diligence and is opening up its “circle” a little bit this week with the beginning of low-risk athletic practices, which began on Monday.

“We started with a circle, now we opened up that circle a little bit more, so we need to know if this could impact us for the next two weeks,” said Donahue, who also serves as president-elect of the Section VI Athletic Council.

“Ultimately academics are the priority,” she said. “We’re watching this really closely. We met with our coaches last week, laid out some things. The bottom line is if we could try and keep our kids safe for as long as possible and keep them playing. There are very specific guidelines.”

Once contests begin, she noted, two parents per player will be allowed to attend.

“In some cases we’ll allow for more than two parents if needed they’re all going to get credentials,” she said. “They’ll have temperature checked, they’ll be socially distanced. We talked about a couple weeks ago whether we would allow any students in and try to see if we can do that. We haven’t made that decision yet. That, to me, would be when we open up another circle.”

The state has also put out guidelines for offseason sports conditioning.

“We’ll be looking at that as another circle that we can get opened up,” she said. “That would be very scripted, things like possible basketball drills, but they would be very individual drills for those sports that are high contact so we can keep those sports engaged. We’re happy those conversations are starting, too.”

She added, “(Monday) it was interesting to see kids who have not played a certain sport before that are now on a team. We had maximum at the pool for girls swimming and cross country and soccer obviously has a lot of kids. That was great to see, that level of involvement. Kids couldn’t have been happier about playing yesterday. It’s good to have them back and into it.”

Donahue also said that the district is continuing to work on its health screening process.

“Every kid has to be screened every day and every staff member,” she said. “Within the first 10 to 15 minutes, they print that report out at the beginning of the day and any kid that has not completed their health screening. We’re working on this. If anyone says, they can’t get into that or they don’t have a way to do it, please call the school or send an email to me. I’ll get it to the right people. We have two people devoted to that now in making sure people get in, using the right email in order to get into it.”

The screenings, she explained are “a critical piece of contact tracing — knowing who is in the building and answering a five-question checklist and temperature taking.”

She added, “All of our coaches now have infrared thermometers. We want to be extra safe and so we’re taking that initiative before practice. They also will walk in and check off a paper screener.”

Board Vice President Kurt Gustafson asked how the transportation piece of the reopening plan is going.

“You have to know where every kid is on every bus, every day,” Donahue responded. “There’s an attendance piece for the drivers, there’s electronic attendance with this and making sure every group of kids are accounted for. We’re allowing no movement around. We’ve had to limit movement otherwise we’d never keep track of kids and we’d have to shut our bus down. They’re keeping up, they’re putting in a lot of hours down there, but they’re getting through it.”

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