The Hamilton School Board passed a "Safe Return To School" plan at Tuesday's board meeting. The meeting was held at the Hamilton High School Performing Arts Center because of the expected interest from the public. About 70 people attended and many of them expressed their opinions before the board voted on a comprehensive plan prepared by superintendent Tom Korst.

Korst said his decisions were based on a successful operation of the school district last year and current recommendations from health officials. Some of the highlights:

All students riding buses must wear masks, as required nationally by the Centers for Disease Control. That includes school route and activity buses. In Grades 7-12, the school plan says, "It is the personal choice of parents, students, teachers and employees to wear a mask or not. The district does recommend the wearing of masks to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to others, but will not require it, until further notice."

It's different for Pre-Kindergarten through age 11. The plan says that until vaccination is available for children of this age group, masks will be required while indoors unless students and staff are 1) within their regular cohorts and/or 2) social distancing and/or 3) have protective barriers in use. Many in the audience disagreed with that portion of the plan, saying that parents and students choice should be allowed. However, two school board members proposed even stricter controls for the younger kids. That motion failed, leading the way for passage of the Korst plan. The board will revisit the plan often through the year, updating it as conditions change.

Other points in the plan include: additional teachers in each building to allow smaller class sizes, seating charts to try to maintain 3 feet separation between desks where possible and temperature scanning stations allowing student and staff access for temperature scanning each day. Staff will get five additional personal days for the school year, with the encouragement for staff to remain home if they have COVID symptoms. For more information on the plan, check the Hamilton School District website.

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