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John Dowty of Faith Technologies installs a thermal camera inside the main entrance at Paola Middle School in August. The camera scans the temperatures of people as they walk into the building.

When high school seniors in Miami County walked out of their schools for spring break in March, most didn’t realize it would be for the last time before they graduate.

In a late afternoon press conference on Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Laura Kelly ordered all school buildings to stop in-person learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers and students finished out the school year utilizing a continuous learning plan that involved work being completed from home and many parents taking on larger teaching roles.

Local graduation dates were pushed into the summer, and Paola High School even hosted its first ever drive-through graduation.

School administrators then got to work over the summer mapping out plans for what classes would look like in the fall.

School districts in Miami County gave parents the choice of enrolling students in onsite or remote learning, and extra precautions such as masks, thermal cameras, spaced out seating for social distancing and limiting visitors were implemented at many of the buildings.

The schools were not immune to the effects of the virus though, and reported cases led to some students needing to be quarantined and some athletic events and other activities to be canceled or rescheduled.

Things got a little easier for school administrators in September after a modification to the Miami County Health Department’s “close-contact” guidance allowed some staff and students who were currently in quarantine to return to the classroom and sports practice fields.

If masks are being worn correctly in a classroom where a positive COVID-19 case has occurred, a student or teacher would not have to complete a 14-day quarantine even if they were within 6 feet of the infected individual, according to the revised public health guidelines.

“If we weren’t wearing masks, we would not be open,” Louisburg Superintendent Brian Biermann said in November. “We would have to shut our doors because of the amount of students that would be required to quarantine.”

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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