With help, Ridgway schools reopen

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Superintendent praises staff, communit

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Superintendent Susan Lacy and board members praised the accomplishments of staff in the days leading up to the reopening of Ridgway Schools at a board meeting Aug. 27.

“I cannot say enough about all our staff,” said Lacy, specifically naming Maintenance Director Shane Ayer, who also handles transportation, and Food Service Manager Marilyn Younie.

Lacy also praised shop teacher Adam Johnson for all his work, which continued late into Sunday. He led volunteers in preparing outdoor classrooms, installing shade tents with poles secured in concrete.

“A real big thanks to Adam Johnson for his contributions to our outdoor classrooms. He has been running the show,” Secondary School Principal Russell Randoph said, adding that Johnson not only put in the research into the engineering of the shade tents but was also on the ground getting it done.

Ayer worked hard to streamline the busing system. This included prioritizing students who most need busing, while keeping them properly distanced on the bus and implementing new protocols.

Ayer had to first accomodate students whose parents checked the “yes” box versus the “sometimes” box in a recent survey of parents on transportation needs. He said he feared he would be “beat like a pinata” by disappointed parents who found out their stop was eliminated.

Ayer stressed that he did all he could to fit in those less-frequent bus riders with the assistance of Nancy Lazenga, Secondary School office assistant, who helped him follow up with parents who marked “sometimes” to further gauge how often their children would actually ride the bus.

Ayer also updated surveillance systems on buses to help him see how well new social distancing rules and mask-wearing requirements are being followed on the buses. Ayer updated the camera systems so he does not have to manually remove memory cards to view recordings. These recordings are now automatically downloaded when each bus drives into the elementary school’s Wi-Fi zone.

Ouray County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery attended the virtual school board meeting, just as he participated in Ouray School’s last meeting before opening. He was pleased with the preparations Ridgway School District had made to reopen safely.

“Kudos to you guys for stepping up to the plate,” Kingery told the board, Lacy and both school principals.

Kingery introduced a new scale of COVID-19 risks released by the state and explained that as of Aug. 27, the county was at 2.9 percent positive test results. A stay-at-home order would go into effect at 15 percent.

Kingery has been working with the new school nurse, Elizabeth Cassidy, who is married to teacher Mike Cassidy, and said he was “super-excited for the school district to have someone like Elizabeth.”

Cassidy said she was pleased with the high turnout of staff who came to get COVID-19 tests. Of 74 total staff members, 70 got tested. Two of the staff members tested positive for COVID-19 before school started, according to an email from Lacy.

As of last week, a total of 289 students were enrolled in in-person learning, and 43 students were enrolled in the remote learning program run by the state, which still allows the district to retain their enrollment. The number of total enrolled is expected to go up with last minute registration and Lacy expects it to not be much behind last year’s enrollment of 330.

Lacy expressed concerns with the spreading of rumors as more positive COVID-19 tests come in. She said it is important that people who test positive are not ostracized and that the community trusts that Kingery is doing his job.

“In a small community we could really harm our children if we have parents who say, ‘Don’t go talking to so-and-so at recess because I heard their mom was out at that function,’ ” Lacy cautioned.