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Martins Ferry schools ready for fall

MARTINS FERRY — Students of the Martins Ferry City Schools District will kick off their school year Aug. 25 despite the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re going all in, five days a week,” Superintendent Jim Fogle said following a board meeting at the high school library Tuesday. Teachers from the elementary, middle and high schools gave presentations about what the typical classroom experience during “green” periods of low coronavirus risk, as well as if the district should need to shift to “yellow” with half the student body attending at a time, or if the district is designated “red” and online learning only.

Two orientation days have been scheduled for Aug. 20 and 21.

“Orientation’s going to be hybrid, just so they get used to their hybrid groups and we only have half at a time,” Fogle said the groups will be divided by last names beginning A-L and M-Z. “So they know what’s going to be expected of them, because it’s going to be a totally different routine,” Fogle said. “The masks and the temperature checks and those things, and the one-way hallways…how we’re going to space things out and the different schedule of how kids are going to be released in the hallways.”

Fogle said about 18 percent of the students have opted for online education. He said most of the teachers are prepared to return to daily classes, with no present concern that long-term substitutes would be needed, but added this might be a possibility in the future.”

“We’ll consult with the Belmont County Health Department…to determine what color we’re going to be on,” Fogle said.

For the elementary school teachers, Lana Jennette and Samantha Ware gave a presentation. For the middle school teachers, Kelsey Voithofer spoke. Jill Myers and Stacey Woods for the high school educators. They touched on issues such as maintaining communication with students and parents, use of programs like Google Classroom, and helping teach students to better use technology productively. They stressed the need for a seamless transition should it become necessary to shift to online learning.

“It’s going to be a learning environment for everybody,” board member Scott Ballint said.

Board member Bill Suto also mentioned needing to provide Chromebook laptops to all students. Woods said the students should be working on the same type of device to facilitate learning. A total of 300 Chromebooks are on order, but they will not be available until October.

There are currently enough Chromebooks for all students, but many are five years old and somewhat slow. More than 200 new Chromebooks are available for juniors and seniors.

Another matter that has been under consideration is lack of internet access.

“We have a bus that will be equipped with internet that will be parked in Colerain,” Fogle said, adding it will be parked near the fire department. “We have been working with the city and especially the park board with the rec center. That’ll be another site where we’ll have internet access for our families. It’ll be equipped to the outside of the building. They’ll be able to pull into the parking lot and access the internet that way.

“We’re in the process of enhancing our internet here on campus so you’ll be able to pick it up in the parking lot,” Fogle said.

Other preparation during the summer has included hydrostatic sprayers and other disinfectants for each building and the buses. Fogle said the district is relying on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to purchase the items and services.

The district will follow the standard policy of requiring students to quarantine for 14 days if they visit an area considered a “hot spot” of COVID infection.

“If you look at the national map as of right now, it’s very low. There’s only a handful of states that are even considered hot spots as of right now,” he said.

Washable cloth face masks and face shields are available for every student and staff member. Teachers will direct students when to transition from face masks to face shields so as not to impede the learning process.

Fogle added he is confident that the children will adapt to the new situation.

More information and contacts are available at the district website http://www.mfcsd.k12.oh.us/.

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