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FUSD Update with McKenzie Bevirt


Episode 1: Return to In-Person Learning with McKenzie Bevirt

There are a lot things happening in our buildings to get ready for the return to in-person learning. We are grateful that our Chief Health Administrator, McKenzie Bevirt, made time to update us on the work that has been done and what we can do collectively going forward.


Zachery Fountain: Hello and welcome to Flagstaff Unified School District Update, this is Zachery Fountain, Director of Communications for the Flagstaff Unified School District.  And today we're grateful to be joined by McKenzie Bevirt, who is serving as our chief health administrator. Welcome.

McKenzie Bevirt: Hi, Zach. 

Zachery Fountain: We wanted to have just a few minutes to provide an update for the community in terms of what's happening before we return to school on the 22nd. What does the work look like that's taken place so far? How are we trying to mitigate Covin 19 going back to school during a pandemic? And really, we just wanted to kind of pick your brain in terms of what's happening and what students and families can kind of expect going into the the next couple of months as we power through the next nine weeks of school?

McKenzie Bevirt: Absolutely.  I'm really excited. We've done a lot of work in our schools are ready and specifically talking about what you'll see in the building. Our health and safety team has worked with the site administrators and the teachers that have been at the schools to make sure we can maximize space between students so cleaning out classrooms and putting things away that we're not necessarily using right now so that we can really try to get that space between students and more movement through the classroom.

We've also really worked on educating and teaching about ventilation, opening those windows, getting good airflow, moving through classrooms, and through just the building in general, which will be really helpful lots of signage so we can be showing kids to wear masks all the time.

Staff is going to be demonstrating having their masks on. You'll see signage that is prompting kids to give each other space so little stickers on the floor or Images that they'll see in the building to really promote that social distancing from their buddies at school.

Some directional arrows so that kids know that we're moving in different directions, which way to go helping kind of guide them through the building since things might look a little bit different.

Zachery Fountain: That's great. I mean, you brought up a few different things a few different components.  We hear a lot about social distancing and our facilities. They haven't grown because of the need, right?  Our buildings are what they are.  Can you talk a little bit about how you know we're trying to layer mitigation strategies on top of each other to reduce the overall risk?  Can you just touch on that a little bit?

McKenzie Bevirt: Yeah, absolutely.  So layered.  We have a lot of different things we have the mask wearing.  We have vaccinations when you're able to get that which a lot of our teachers have had that ability in our staff, which is great.  That social distancing is part of that layered strategy.  And we know that it's difficult, especially with a large classroom or kids wanting to get close.  They haven't seen their buddies in a long time.  It's really promoting that for when you can have that social distancing.

So teachers, if you're seeing each other not hugging, not kind of getting close to each other, same for students.  We're really maximizing the space that we can between each other when you can maintain distance is really what we're promoting and that's the recommendation.

Zachery Fountain: That's a great point.  I mean, there's a lot of individual steps that have to take place to where we can reopen schools collectively. I'm just curious if you have any recommendations for how families can be a part of supporting that?  Are there things that we could be doing outside of the school environment that allow our schools to still be open?

McKenzie Bevirt: Yeah, absolutely practicing all of these mitigation strategies that we, as a district, are promoting is really helpful.  Having your kids practice wearing a mask and being really comfortable in that mask, making sure it fits across their nose and mouth snugly, they don't have to constantly be touching and pulling that back up, practicing social distancing.

So what does that look like being able to reach your hand out and not touch your friend elbow bumps when you want to see somebody and give them a Hello, that kind of thing.

Also just talking about the different terms that we use social distancing masks, space between each other, washing your hands regularly,practicing that at home and singing fun songs.

While you're doing your hand washing is really helpful to make it fun, we can practice that, then it won't be foreign as they come into our buildings. It's something that they do at home, and it's a regular practice, and I think it will go a lot more smoothly.  And now they're just looking at the space, which is different.  But all these strategies they're already doing at home, those are all great points.

Zachery Fountain:  We think about what our own personal actions and activities outside of the place mean in terms of what's going to happen to school sites and notifications and all those types of things. So thank you for touching on that.

You know, I think I think that we've had a lot of going on in a year.  I can still remember sitting in your office a year ago, January. Just saying, Hey, are you seeing this thing that's happening in Asia? Do you think that we're prepared? And can you just talk a little bit about what the work has been going on behind the scenes for this past year to get us to the point where we're ready to reopen for in-person schools?

McKenzie Bevirt: Absolutely a big collaboration between a lot of individuals in the district, specifically a lot of research reading about what is successful, what's not successful, where to make changes and improvements based on either schools that have reopened or CDC recommendations ads what kind of things they're promoting or good resources that they have?

We're using that in our collaboration, we have our health and safety, which has a mix of individuals which are administration and custodial maintenance.  We have individuals that can put insight into what that looks like. And we talk about how can we make this better? How can this work? We walk through the buildings.  We really work with our collaboration with our partners within the County and within Flagstaff to talk about what's successful and what works and we just try.

I mean, right now, this is all new for so many people, but I feel really good about where we are in comparison to where we were a year ago, where we were just starting to figure out.

Do we put signage up?  Like, how do we communicate this? What's this going to look like?  How long will this be?

But now we really we're in a good place.

I think we there'll be things that we need to change and there will be things that we need to adapt to. But I feel like we're ready and we have really good Foundation to get us back in the building and do that safely.

Zachery Fountain: Well, thanks for that background.  That's really helpful.  You know, the last thing I think that would be really helpful for families to know in particular.  Are, you know, students get me ready to walk out the door.  We've asked them to grab their fully charged iPad, grab their lunch if they're bringing it.  It's important to note that lunches will be free for the remainder of the year at all FUSD sites. But what are the things that families can kind of look for before their student ever steps out the door? What are kind of the symptoms that they should be monitoring with their kids?  And if they are concerned, what should their next steps be?

McKenzie Bevirt:
Absolutely so really important to know that covet can have very different symptoms of different individuals.  So if your student has any symptoms that could include mild symptoms, runny nose, maybe just feeling a little fatigued, headache.  If your student has any symptoms whatsoever and seems to not be themselves not feeling great, we ask that you keep your student home.

Excuse me, because that's a good indicator to reach out and get some additional information, whether that be your primary care provider or your school nurse or even the COVID help team could assist you with answering any of those questions.  So symptomatic students shouldn't come to school until they've been cleared by those individuals and then also students that have had a known direct exposure.
So somebody within their direct family or somebody who's visited their House recently, they've had a direct contact, so that's less a cumulative of 15 minutes less than six feet with that positive individual, that would be a direct contact and they could be at risk for turning up positive for COVID.

And so we ask in those situations where you've had a direct contact with or without symptoms that again you reach out to your primary care or the County health Department or your school nurse for additional guidance before coming into our school buildings.  Wow.  Okay. 

Zachery Fountain: Well, it is always important to do that.  I know that all of us as staff at FUSD we're signing in every morning we're having our temperatures check because we want to be proactive in making sure that we're checking and keeping everybody safe as we all come back to the favorite thing we like to do learn.  McKenzie thank you for being here today do you have any last kind of items before we conclude today?

McKenzie Bevirt: I just wanted to say I really appreciate the partnerships that we have with Coconino County and I just really appreciate the parents support and understand this has been a difficult year and students. I'm so happy we're going to be getting back into the building and we can do this if we follow these mitigation strategies and support each other. Let's have a great end of the 2,021 school year.

Zachery Fountain: McKenzie Bevirt, chief health administrator thank you for being here today and thank you to the Flagstaff community.