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Opp, CCS prepare school year protocols

With a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the Alabama Department of Public Health has updated guidelines as students get ready to return to campus for the new school year.

Students of the Opp City School System will be the first in Covington County to return to campus with the first day being August 9. Opp Superintendent  Michael Smithart said the opening of the year will see many of the same protocols as the 2020-21 year.

“We will continue to sanitize our buildings at the end of the day and encourage social distancing to the extent we can. We will also encourage the use of hand sanitizer and other mitigating efforts.  We will follow CDC and ADPH requirements for isolation and quarantine,” Smithart said.

At the moment, Opp and Covington County Schools will not mandate students wear masks on campus; however, both superintendents are recommending them for added protection, especially while indoors. Masks are mandated for students riding buses.

“At this time, we will strongly encourage the use of masks by staff and students in our buildings,” Smithart said. “There is a federal regulation requiring the use of masks on buses and we will follow that mandate.  We certainly retain the right to change this policy based upon any future guidance and/or mandates or if the situation in our community necessitates it.”

Students or teachers who are tested positive for COVID-19, or who have been in close contact with someone else who tests positive will be required to stay home a minimum of 10 days, with only a few exceptions.

“Individuals who are positive for COVID will be sent home for a minimum of 10 days and may return to school once they are symptom and fever free for 24 hours. School personnel will contact trace positive cases.,” said Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver. “Individuals who are close contacts (less than 6 feet apart for 15 minutes) of positive COVID cases will be sent home for a minimum of 10 days.”

Driver said the exceptions will be asymptomatic individuals who have had COVID in the previous 90 days, asymptomatic individuals who have been fully vaccinated for COVID, and asymptomatic individuals who consistently wear a mask and maintain a space of at least three feet.

Both superintendents said that school protocols are subject to change depending on certain conditions within the community or as ADPH guidance changes.

Students are also asked to practice good hygiene, washing their hands frequently. Hand sanitizer will be available across campuses.

While students are expected to return to full campus learning for the upcoming school year, Smithart said Opp schools will work with students who have to be quarantined.

“We will address individual situations as a result of isolation or quarantine. We have the capacity to provide instruction during that time,’ he said.

Opp’s first day of school is Monday, August 9. Covington County and Andalusia City schools begin Monday, August 16. Representatives of Andalusia City Schools could not be reached for comment.