NEWPORT, Ky. — With one confirmed case of COVID-19 just 50 miles away in Louisville, Newport schools are already preparing for the worst, but rigorously disinfecting as they also hope for the best.
Superintendent Kelly Middleton said the district's plans are fluid, but they're having conversations daily as the virus has moved closer to the Tri-State.
"Prepare for the worst," he said. "Hope you don't get there."
Schools are deep cleaning halls, classrooms and everything they can spray down twice a week in the hopes of keeping the virus at bay, if it does make its way to the region. They're also taking direction from state and local health departments. The Northern Kentucky Health Department sent a bulletin to schools last month directing districts to have isolation plans and updated emergency response plans.
"We've been discussing this forever," said Middleton. "The best time is to fix the roof on a clear day. So we started working immediately, having discussions, having talks."
The district purchased three additional Clorox 360 machines to help with the disinfecting; previously, they only had one. Each teacher is equipped with a bin of disinfectant wipes, and kids are being armed with the knowledge of how to properly wash their hands at every age.
Middleton said the schools are also already working on contingency plans, just in case infection forces the schools to close.
"OK, can using the internet, can we teach from the computers?" he said. "From the school district? From home?"
Right now, all K-8 grades have iPads at their disposal, and all high school students have computers. But one concern is that not every student may have internet access at home.
Child care and lunches for kids who rely on schools for midday meals could also pose a challenge. The district plans to continue discussing options with teachers on how to deal with a possible closure, if the situation ever arises. Middleton said, even with their rigorous planning, there are still questions that linger, like what to do with outside providers who enter the school, or students who take the TANK bus to school.
Middleton said everything is being handled on a case-by-case basis; any cancellation of events or field trips will be handled the same way.
But the district's biggest hope is that preparation pays off, and that everyone stays calm.
"Try not to panic," Middleton said. "Because panic can cause as much problems as anything else."
The Northern Kentucky Health Department said it plans to meet with school superintendents later in the week to continue discussing a plan moving forward, in addition to a planned webinar on Thursday.