NEW RICHMOND — The New Richmond School Board approved opening school grounds to the public as soon as possible during its Monday meeting.

Those using facilities will be asked to adhere to county guidelines on social distancing.

The board also heard a new idea for graduation.

High School Principal Tom Wissink proposed a drive-up ceremony. The stage would be in front of the building for students to cross and receive their diploma holder. Family members would wait in vehicles, then be able to jump out to watch and take photos.

The district has previously reserved Aug. 8 in hopes for a live commencement.

With regular classes done for the summer, the district is now preparing for the upcoming school year, with in-person instruction set to resume.

A focus team is working on the Tiger Launch plan for the fall. Group members represent different areas of concern including instruction and learning, student and parent engagement, staffing, communication and more.

The team meets weekly to discuss logistical issues for the upcoming school year.

The main priority, Olson said, is how they are going to protect students and staff.

Olson said public health does not recommend taking temperatures as they can be modified and the logistics of doing it daily for staff and students would be difficult.

The district has purchased 500 masks for staff members. The guidance is masks should be optional, Olson said.

Social distancing, in classrooms, hallways and on buses, is a large discussion point going forward.

“One thing that I hear consistently in this process is social distancing is not going to go away,” Olson said.

Principals are measuring classrooms and having conversations with staff about rearranging rooms, but they can’t give a blanket statement that they can social distance in each room, Olson said.

Social distancing in the hallways would be feasible at the middle school, Principal Doug Hatch said, though it would be a challenge. Wissink said the ability to do so at the high school would depend on the number of students, and how well the students follow any social distancing requirement.

Social distancing on buses is difficult to imagine, Olson said. Normal capacity for district buses is 72 students. Following CDC recommendations, only seven students would be allowed on a bus. Following this would require the district to be busing students from 6 a.m. into the afternoon.

The district is working on a plan for parents who may opt-out of sending students back to school. Options could range from ala carte to full remote learning.

Olson said he has been using 20% as an estimate of the number of students who may not return. This is based on the percentage of students who have underlying conditions, and an added 10% that may choose not to come.

A survey conducted by the school found roughly 7% of families said they may not choose to return in the fall.

Visitors and volunteers will be limited, or eliminated, this fall.

Olson said it is possible the year will see intermediate disruptions, either in classrooms, wings or full buildings, based on case numbers. The department of health services does still have control of public instruction, and could shut down the state, region or district, as well.

“This list is just kind of the tip of the iceberg,” Olson said.