OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee Christian Academy Principal Melissa King said her school instituted many additional precautions at the beginning of the school year.
“We feel so strongly that all those things are working, that we have maintained them through the second semester,” she said.
Masks are optional, but they fog the classrooms at least once a day and sometimes twice, along with intermittent cleanings in the classrooms. They have a dedicated person who cleans the classrooms and high touch areas such as restrooms and kitchen areas. They are not using water fountains at all this year. Either the children bring bottled water, or the teachers refill the bottles for them.
They do temperature checks every day, and the teachers have screening forms they fill out each day before coming on campus. To help with the time it takes to do the temp checks with the kids each morning, they opened a fourth drop off station.
They even split up their dismissal times so they had some children going out while others stayed inside. They eat lunch in their classrooms. They do not use the church sanctuary, because Christ Fellowship uses it, and they wanted to keep the school germs isolated to the school, and the church germs isolated to the church. Instead, they hold chapel in the individual classrooms. They have hand sanitizer stations throughout the entire school, and everyone uses it before they go into a classroom. They have a plexiglass barrier in the office to help protect the office staff from unnecessary spread of germs. No visitors are allowed on campus.
Some schools in other areas have begun leaving doors open so children do not have to touch them, thus cutting down on the spread of germs, but King said she felt the risk of open, unlocked doors outweighed the benefits, and opted to keep the doors in her school closed and locked. “We just can’t sacrifice security for cleanliness. We are still doing fire drills and lockdown drills and all those things as well.”
Once this wave of cases Okeechobee is experiencing passes, they may consider reopening the cafeteria for students to go in and eat as classes, she said.
She praised the parents of her students and said they are phenomenal. “They are doing an excellent job of keeping their kids home when they are not feeling well. We are making it really easy for parents to transition back and forth from virtual to face to face, even if it’s for a day. Our kids know exactly what to do whether they are at home or on campus.”
Award programs are video taped by the teachers and shared with the parents, so no one misses out on anything.
King said when they went virtual last March, they received a lot of compliments from parents on how well they handled things. “We didn’t lose a lot of momentum. Our teachers were home every day, and we were doing a full day of school work while the kids were at home, so I don’t feel like our kids lost a lot when we are talking about academic gains between then and now. I believe it taught our kids and our families that they are really resilient, and if you make a big fuss about it being negative, then that’s kind of the mind set they will go with, but we’ve made a big fuss about it being a positive — all the things we can learn from it.”