GUSTINE - A number of health and safety protocols have been implemented on local campuses, where teachers are conducting distance learning activities from their classrooms and classified staff members are going about various duties.
Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, and Russell Hazan, Gustine Unified’s director of maintenance and operations, recently spelled out the policies and procedures established to reduce the coronavirus risk.
Many mirror the basic guidelines which the general public is asked to follow - including social distancing, use of facial coverings and rigorous sanitation protocols.
“At each of our sites we have protocols for entering offices and common spaces, and trying to eliminate close contact with other individuals,” said Ballenger. “The protocols that are in place are there to keep everybody safe. We have thought about where we might have problems, and tried to address those.”
The district has not had any staff members test positive for COVID-19, he said Friday.
Ballenger said the safeguards include having people self-attest their temperatures and signing in so that the district is able to contact trace if that becomes an issue.
Teachers, he noted, can report directly to their classroom rather than checking in at the office. “We will take their temperatures, or they will self-attest that they are under 100.4 degrees,” he noted.
Ballenger said facial coverings are required in all common areas and hallways, and social distancing is encouraged as well.
Teachers are allowed to bring a small microwave into their classroom if they wish so they do not have to go to a common area to warm food, he noted. Hazan said that staff members are assigned to different restrooms as well.
Teachers are not required to wear facial coverings when alone in their classroom, Ballenger said.
“There may be times in the afternoon when they meet to collaborate,” he noted. “We would have them wear masks and practice social distancing.”
Office staff members are spread out more than six feet, Ballenger said. and plexiglass shields are being installed in offices.
Hazan said each classroom is being fully disinfected daily in addition to standard cleaning, and high touch areas such as door handles are being regularly wiped down. In addition to the sanitation protocols of custodians, he said, other staff on hand are asked to periodically wipe down surfaces high-touch surfaces throughout the work day.
Hazan said the district has a fogger and additional units on order which will allow staff to disinfect a classroom in 10 minutes as opposed to a half an hour or longer.
The filtration on HVAC systems in office areas, which circulate air between multiple rooms, is being upgraded as well. Classrooms have self-contained HVAC units, Hazan noted.
Public health guidelines will be followed should the district have a confirmed COVID-19 case among staff, Ballenger said.
He said those protocols include contact tracing to identify others who are at risk of exposure as defined by health guidelines.
“We would ask them to quarantine as well to make sure the virus is not spreading,” the superintendent said. “We have protocols in place for when we do have somebody test positive, for contact tracing purposes and for staff being out with COVID-related illness.”
Ballenger said he believes GUSD has been able to provide a safe working environment for its employees.
But, he cautioned, the best policies and practices are only as good as the people implementing them.
“We can plan and prepare, but it still comes down to each individual doing their part to make sure that they are protected and they are protecting others,” Ballenger concluded. “We have to continue to stress to everybody that they have to do their part as well.”