The Petersburg School District office building is located adjacent to the high school.

Petersburg School District is hiring a school nurse to help with COVID next year. The start of school will look a lot like this year, with similar protocols in place. But there’s expected to be more testing opportunities for students, which could allow for more activities. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

A lot could change at the Petersburg schools by fall. As with most things involving the pandemic, there is new guidance and recommendations all the time as scientists learn more about the virus.

“We continue to adapt and adjust policies and procedures as things evolve with the pandemic,” said Erica Kludt-Painter, Superintendent of the Petersburg School District. She was speaking on KFSK’s Campus Connection show for the month of May.

Even with the changing world of science, she says the district has to make a plan for next year. And looking at things right now, much will remain the same come the fall. The name of the game will still be keeping students in school in-person.

“We’ve been more fortunate than many districts because we’ve had most of our year in person,” Kludt-Painter said. “We’ve had a few disruptions and that sort of thing but over all we’ve been in-person more than most.”

So, the plan is to keep mitigations measures and protocols in place similar to this year, at least in the beginning. That will include masking and social distancing with some more relaxed measures for the youngest students.

“We’ll probably start with those protocols in place. We’ve made those plans to have smaller class sizes already. We’ve got things in place for that,” said Kludt-Painter said. “But we’re also expanding some of the offers. For example, the middle and high school, we’ve locked things down pretty tightly with our pods of kids this year over there, especially the middle school is more like the elementary in that sense. We are planning to offer and bring back choir and put band back in the schedule so those things are already in the works as well.”

The school district must come up with its Updated Smart Start Plan by June 23rd. It’s a directive from the State’s Department of Education and is tied to federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. The plan must include details of how the district will safely return to in-person schooling in the fall.

In order to do that, the school district must have public input. They plan to seek written feedback as well as hold virtual meetings where parents can comment.

“What they see with their own kids, things that have gone well, things that they wish had gone better, just concerns that they have going into the school year,” said Kludt-Painter. “So, I think it will be a good process.”

Even with a start-up plan in place, many variables could change by the fall. Vaccinations are becoming more available to younger students and Kludt-Painter says it’s possible that that could impact how the school district runs, which is exciting.

“It’s another factor that families could consider and that the districts may be considering as things go forward,” she said. “Again, not as a requirement. But what does it mean to protocols in classrooms, you know, protocols for travel and you know all of those kinds of things.”

Another change will be more COVID testing which–like vaccines–is also going to be more available. Kludt-Painter says the antigen testing that they’ve been relying on for sports competitions now might be available for other students in the school.

To that end, the district plans to use federal funding to employ a school nurse next year.

“That will be great because I sometimes feel like I wear that hat a little bit this year because there’s a lot of confidentiality things related to of course, testing, and if there’s positive cases and that sort of thing. We don’t have a lot of people who have access to lists and all of that. So, I’d be happy to have an actual medical professional,” Kludt-Painter said.

The district is already advertising for the position.

The last day of school in Petersburg is May 27.

The first day of school in the fall is August 31.