School is back in session around Carver County, and finalizing plans has been a big challenge for school boards everywhere. Watertown-Mayer finished this task on Aug. 23 with their Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan and with their health and safety protocols, finalized on Sept. 2. These two plans aim to ensure healthy students and staff while following state and federal guidelines as much as possible.

Like with many schools around the county, Watertown-Mayer’s plan won’t require masks, vaccines, or testing for students or staff. All are, of course, recommended in order to mitigate infections, but families get to choose.

Adding to choice, families can choose online learning through Southwest Metro’s partnership with Watertown-Mayer. Anyone looking to utilize this option can contact Darren Schuler, superintendent, at dschuler@wm.k12.mn.us.

Of course, COVID-19 is still around, so there are a few quarantine procedures to remember. Displaying certain symptoms means staying home, such as a fever over 100 degrees and loss of taste or smell. Having a positive test also means students or staff would need to stay home until symptoms subside. The school is also asking that any positive tests are reported to the school immediately so they can notify anyone in close contact with the patient.

Vaccinated individuals have a bit more flexibility if they are in the same household as a positive case -they can go to school still, even if a case is at home.

If a student has to quarantine, the plan for homework is the same as it would be if they had a long illness.

“We’ll have packets of homework prepared for them to take home,” said Schuler. “It will be similar to if you’ve been out with the flu for a week or on a long vacation. Hybrid is not a part of our plan at this time.”

Otherwise, much of the year will be planned as a normal year. After finishing up renovations in the cafeteria, middle and high school students can enjoy a new space for lunch. The media centers are also finishing up work, as well as new furniture added in common areas for students to study. Students won’t even need to social distance this year.

Sanitation protocols are still in place, so equipment and desks are getting regularly sanitized to prevent any spread of the virus. Staff are also monitoring their air filtration systems to make sure everything is clean and up to new standards.

Finally, Watertown-Mayer is looking to do COVID-19 testing as needed.

“We’re currently looking into it and determining what kind of screening we need,” said Schuler.

Staff are applying for a grant to purchase the tests they would need, which they also provide a few different options for choice. However, one issue is staffing. Once the tests are purchased, choosing who disseminates them is important, and there are still discussions over who would be in charge of them. And like so many other things, COVID-19 tests are in a supply shortage, so it would be some time before they would even be available. Once they are, parents will be notified since school testing will be an option aside from going through the county or hospitals.

Even with challenges still present, staff are excited for a year with their students and planning has been going smoothly. Lesson plans are already put together, and with the renovations nearly done, there’s plenty of reason to be excited.

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