East Penn Press

Sunday, July 12, 2020


Thursday, June 25, 2020 by ED COURRIER Special to The Press in Local News

Return to Sport COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan approved

The East Penn Board of School Directors approved the administration’s Return to Sport COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan as a part of the 2020-2021 fall reopening. It passed 8-1 at the board’s June 22 virtual meeting, with Alisa Bowman as the only “nay” vote. She voiced support of what was presented, but expressed concern it wasn’t ready yet for a vote — that it was still subject to possible changes.

On hand were Director of Athletics Rebecca George and Assistant Director of Athletics Matt Spengler to field questions. They are both listed on the plan as primary contacts.

Divided into three phases, not to be confused with the color-coded Pennsylvania COVID-19 guidelines, the district safety plan establishes policies to ease student athletes back into school sports. School solicitor Marc Fisher explained the plan should be viewed as a policy document and procedures could be adjusted as circumstances change. This seemed to appease worried school directors who had shared Bowman’s concerns.

George explained how the plan, created in partnership with Lehigh Valley Health Network, works with sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants and sports that can be played with social distancing. Each “phase” lasts 14 days.

Under general recommendations, “Athletes, coaches, advisers and game personnel will undergo a health care screening, conducted by an athletic trainer, before starting any activity (practice, event, meeting). The type of screening will be dependent upon the available resources and the phase level.” The screenings could range from a verbal or written questionnaire to a temperature check. It states, “Any individual who does not pass the health screening will be sent home. This decision will be based on the current medical recommendations.”

Hand washing, masks and other healthy hygiene practices are recommended. Intensified cleaning, disinfection and ventilation in all facilities and disinfecting shared equipment is encouraged.

Phase 1 sets the same policies for both “high frequency and low frequency” of contact sports. Baseball, basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, softball, wrestling and volleyball are listed as “high-frequency of contact sports.” Diving, golf, rifle, cross-country, swimming, tennis, track and weight lifting are considered “low-frequency of contact sports.”

The plan set limits on the number of players, encourages outdoor practices, prohibits contact sessions and states cloth masks must be worn by all participants, including coaches, for all workouts in indoor facilities and the training room.

“Locker rooms and the majority of bathrooms will remain closed unless there is an extenuating circumstance and permission is granted by the director of athletics,” the plan states. However, designated restrooms “may be available for emergent use.” Participants are to report dressed and ready for the workout and shower at home.

Phase 2 and Phase 3 provide similar and separate policies relevant to “high frequency and low frequency of contact” sports. These involve wearing masks, social distancing, use of indoor and outdoor spaces and policies for allowing team practices with partial equipment, moderate contact drills and intersquad scrimmages.

The plan recognizes modifications for student and coach transportation to and from athletic events may be necessary.

Local and state government guidelines will be followed on a case-by-case basis for overnight and out-of-state events, as well as events in potential COVID-19 hot spots.

School Superintendent Kristen Campbell said the updated plan will be available to the public on BoardDocs via the district’s website.

In other business, Assistant Superintendents Laura Witman and Douglas Povilaitis presented a three option 2020 school opening plan to the directors at the June 8 meeting. Campbell announced 4,900 people responded to the district’s school reopening June 9-16 online survey. She said the committees working on the contingency plans for reopening in the fall will factor in that public input, among other considerations.

Campbell promised an update on the reopening plan for the next meeting, with seeking final board approval by early August.

Regarding the stadium turf resurfacing project, Campbell said it is still on schedule and on budget. Stone has been placed for stormwater drainage, with artificial turf to be installed in early July. It is projected the track resurfacing will be completed by the third week in August.

Business Administrator Robert Saul also brought welcome news to the meeting on the district’s recent debt restructuring. He announced an approximate net future savings of $16,000 over the length of the loan with a low rate of .97 percent. The initial projection by the district’s financial advisers was a net future cost for the debt restructure at $275,000.

The voting was unanimous for approval of revisions to the 2020-2021 Emmaus High School Program of Studies and the 2019-2020 Emmaus High School Targeted Support and Improvement Plan for Students with Disabilities. EHS Principal Kate Kieres and Supervisor of Special Education Sandra Joseph answered follow-up questions on each of the programs presented in detail at the previous meeting.

The GIANT Company’s $2,688 donation to support efforts in reducing hunger and providing financial support for the district’s student meal program was gratefully accepted by the board.

In personnel matters, the board approved the appointment of kindergarten teacher Heather Thomas at Macungie Elementary School effective in August.

School Directors Joshua Levinson, Paul Champagne and Allan Byrd were appointed as voting delegates to attend the 2020 PSBA Delegate Assembly in Mechanicsburg Nov. 7.

Following COVID-19 restrictions for public gatherings, board members and the general public attended the meeting remotely in real time via Zoom on smartphone or computer through a link on the district website.

A request to address the board was granted to Jennifer Roth. She asked for more “interactive” and more “frequent” communication from the district regarding plans to reopen the schools in the fall.

The directors held a second reading of board policy updates regarding tobacco and nicotine use on school facilities, including by school bus drivers and the general public at school events. The first reading had been held in March, before the pandemic shutdown.

President Ken Bacher announced there was an executive session held before the public meeting 6:15 p.m. on “safety and personnel.”

The East Penn Board of School Directors meet regularly 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month. A virtual meeting is scheduled July 13. The public can access documents through BoardDocs and register to attend the Zoom session via a link on the district website.