WELLSBORO — Wellsboro Area School District took the first step to reopening schools with a goal of holding classes five days a week.

The board adopted the Health and Safety Plan during a virtual meeting on July 14. That lays the groundwork for creating the Continuity of Education Plan, which the board will probably adopt at its August meeting, said Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman. School is scheduled to reopen Aug. 26.

The five-day school week is the option being used by most of the 19 school districts in Intermediate Unit #17, which serves Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties. That also reflects the desires of parents from a recent survey, said Freeman.

“Our first priority is the health and safety of our students and staff while also serving our primary role, which is the education of students,” Freeman said. “Our plan is going to be a huge partnership with students, faculty, administrators and parents to ensure the safety of our students and staff as well.”

The survey of 771 people, the majority of whom are parents, was taken before Gov. Tom Wolf issued the mask mandate. At that time, 70.8% of respondents plan to send their child to school and 71.8% prefer a traditional model with students attending school Monday through Friday.

The success of the plan relies on parent and community involvement, said the board.

“It will take a partnership of everyone involved … to keep everyone safe,” said board member Tracy Doughtie. “We know parents want their kids in school. We know that’s where kids learn best. But it’s going to take everyone’s help, everyone’s involvement and commitment to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

At this time, the district is planning to shorten the school day by an hour to allow for additional cleaning time and faculty planning, try to keep students within as few groups as possible, and utilize larger areas like gyms, auditoriums and the outdoors, to provide as much social distance as possible.

In classrooms, non-essential furniture is being removed, desks oriented so students all face the same direction to allow as much space as possible. In classrooms where there’s less than six feet between students, masks will be required, however the district is establishing mask break area.

Desks and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected by students and faculty at the beginning and end of each class to ensure that no area is missed, Freeman said.

The district will purchase a mask for every student and a face shield for all faculty, staff and bus drivers. Students may wear other masks and masks will be sent home every night for cleaning.

For students who cannot wear a mask, desk sneeze guards will be used. Staff who assist with care and feeding of students will also wear gloves.

The plan will also include alternatives should the school or county move back into red or yellow phases, Freeman said. Students, faculty and staff should not come to school if they are ill.

Parents should also have a plan in place for picking up students as symptoms may develop during school hours. Temperatures will be taken of students when boarding buses and everyone entering a building. Students should not be left at bus stops, Freeman said, as students with temperatures above 100.4 degrees cannot ride the bus.

The full plan will be available on the district’s website and addresses meals, cleaning and disinfecting the building and other information. Board members encouraged the administration to hold a public meeting to provide details about the reopening.

The next step will be to survey parents, securing the name, students in school and grade level. That will allow the district to develop the Continuity of Education Plan and determine class sizes.

Freeman encouraged anyone with questions to contact her at 570-724-4424, 570-724-0303 or email bfreeman@wellsborosd.org.