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Districts, students adjust to 'new normal' as schools work to keep kids safe

Posted at 5:47 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 19:43:00-04

CINCINNATI — As schools across the Tri-State continue welcoming students back into the classroom, districts are working around the clock to ensure safe and healthy learning environments to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

At Princeton City Schools, around 4,000 students are learning in-person, with a split schedule. The district said it's focusing on everything from deep cleaning to social distancing while working with the Hamilton County Health Department to keep its students safe.

"Six feet apart, minimum, six feet apart for all the desks," said Tom Burton, superintendent of Princeton City Schools. "When you look in the hallways, we have a lot of one-way traffic…Every one of our staff members received this mask. And it is breathable."

Burton said the schools are deep-cleaned every night and a special disinfecting film covers classrooms, killing germs for 30 days. So far, in the first five days of school, students and staff are working to adjust to changes and new classroom structures intended to improve safety.

"Our kids have been socially distancing themselves, and while it’s not 100% perfect, I’m very very impressed," said Burton.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said social distancing is one of the best measures schools can enforce to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He also said all students and staff should wear masks, not face shields.

"The absolute best practice for the school is to try and give as much space possible between the students," he said.

Kesterman said he encourages parents to discuss with their children why this is all so important. He's also taken steps to pair all 178 schools in Hamilton County with a team member from the Health Department.

"That can provide quick information and help them make the decision on if that child should be isolated, if that child has COVID potentially, what they need to do, and to make sure that they’re doing the best they can to keep the entire class and entire school safe," said Kesterman.

This includes Princeton City Schools, where Burton said the effort helps the district to feel safer and supported in its decision to reopen its doors. Burton said since students have returned to school, so far there have been zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their district, but there are plans in place for if and when that does happen.

Burton said he's been in close contact with other superintendents in the region to learn how they've responded to positive cases, and the district plans to rely on their partnership with the Health Department to continue prioritizing student safety.