The Lebanon Special School District has had approximately 20 employees exposed to COVID-19, some of whom tested positive and others who were in contact with those infected.

Director of Schools Scott Benson said the district’s health and safety guidelines significantly reduced spreading in those instances and should keep students and teachers safe when classes resume Aug. 10.

LSSD announced its decision to open schools using a hybrid model on Friday, and its board of education approved a COVID-19 handbook during its meeting Wednesday. The handbook includes both preventative measures and a plan of action for any exposures.

“That plan will work if we all follow it,” Benson said, noting that a bus driver called in about showing symptoms the day after working an in-service. “Nobody sat down beside her when she was at the table checking people in, they kept distance as she was checking people in and everybody had a mask when they came in … so when she went to contact trace, we had one driver that is quarantined.”

According to Benson, a few of the exposures have been within the last few days but the numbers have been trending downward. Board member Andy Brummett said he is particularly concerned about the virus spreading through buses because of the close-quarters environment.

“We’re encouraging our parents to bring students as much as possible to help minimize the numbers,” Assistant Director of Schools Becky Kegley said. “We’ll have family seating on the bus so you’re with people that you are normally with anyway to help, and we will have assigned seats so that we know who everybody’s sitting by, they’re not changing up who they’re sitting by on the bus. And we’ll be taking temperatures before they get off the bus every day … we’ll be doing additional cleaning on all buses.”

Kegley is also working as one of the district’s contact tracers, alongside Human Resources Director Kim Tramel and Student Services Administrator Mike Kurtz. People who have been exposed to the virus are expected to quarantine for two weeks per LSSD’s COVID-19 handbook.

For parents still concerned about sending their child to school, LSSD is offering a Virtual Academy learning option. More than 500 students and 30 teachers are signed up to participate as of Wednesday.

“They’ll have a consistent schedule, the same teachers every day, they will have face-to-face learning with those teachers every day,” Instructional Coordinator Julie Beasley said. “None of the models that we go to will ever effect the Virtual Academy. They will start on Aug. 10 and go as normal … and we’ve got some excellent teachers.”

LSSD Board of Education Chair Steve Jones said the reduced classroom size in a hybrid model combined with the Virtual Academy should help ensure social distancing.

“When school starts back, kids are going to be going two days a week Tuesday through Friday,” he said, estimating that there would be 1,700 students in school each day as a result. “As big as those schools are, it’s going to be very easy to social distance and do the things that we need to do.”

The Lebanon Special School District’s next board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 14, with the time and location to be announced.

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