QUEEN CREEK, AZ — The Queen Creek Unified School District wrapped up day two of in-person learning Tuesday, one week after the district's Governing Board voted to move forward despite not meeting the state's recommended benchmarks.
On Tuesday, the district gave ABC15 exclusive access to one of its high schools, to show how its working to keep students and staff safe.
Students and staff wearing masks and face shields, filing down hallways lined with masking tape, safety signage and hand sanitizing stations. Eastmark High School's Principal, Paul Gagnon, says this is the new normal for the 1,100 seventh through eleventh graders, and 85 staff members on campus.
"I think all things considered things have gone really well," said Gagnon. "We know that there's a lot of nervousness, a lot of mixed emotions with kids coming back but with the mitigation steps we put in place, I feel very confident that we've done a great job thus far."
Gagnon says that mitigation plan follows local, state and federal guidelines, and includes steps like:
-Block scheduling, meant to reduce the number of times students move throughout the building and help with contact tracing if needed.-Students get daily temperature checks-The school also added additional lunch breaks to keep numbers in the cafeteria down while giving students a chance to socialize.
The cafeteria is one of the few areas students gather on campus. Their lunch break is about 30 minutes. Students sit in pairs and tables are spaced apart. There is plexiglass up for the cafeteria workers, social distancing markers on the floor and all food is packaged "to-go style," to try and eliminate any contact.
In the classroom, all desks face the front and there are barriers between each student. About 18 percent of Eastmark's students are still learning online and Gagnon says that has helped reduce class sizes. Families can also choose to switch learning models if they'd like.
When it comes to if, or when, someone on campus tests positive for COVID-19, Gagnon says they do have protocols in place and will follow guidance from local health officials to both limit the spread and notify students and parents.
When asked if he feels the campus is safe, Gagnon said, "Absolutely. 100 percent, I think we've done everything we've been asked. Give us an opportunity to see our plan through."