The Hardin County School Board listened to several ideas presented by Superintendent Andy Edmondson on behalf of the School Reopening Committee Monday night. The Committee will continue to meet throughout the summer to hash out all of the details needed to reopen school this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to Phase 4 guidelines of the Restore Illinois plan, gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed and schools can reopen under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Some of the guidelines set for schools at this time are:
Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;
Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
Require social distancing whenever possible;
Conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering school buildings are symptom free;
and, Increase schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.
As part of Phase 4, each school is required to have a blended learning/remote learning plan in place. The Reopening Committee discussed several options on what a blended school day could look like. The committee agreed that an a.m. / p.m. schedule would best meet the needs of Hardin County students at this time. The board members shared their support for that option and felt the School Reopening Committee was best to make that determination.
This type of blended day is described as one half of the school population will attend in the morning hours and then the other half of the school population will attend the afternoon hours. (At this time roughly 8-11 a.m and then 12-3 p.m.)
“The importance of seeing our kids everyday was the number one reason for choosing this plan,” said Edmondson. “We realize that no plan is perfect, though, and there are many details that we’ll need to work out.”
Debbie Johnsey with Illinois Central Bus Company said they are working on dividing the routes at this time and that will determine who will attend morning and who will attend afternoon. Siblings living in the same household will be on the same school schedule.
Students will be offered two meals per day; one of those meals will most likely be sent home. Head Cook Ruthy Potts said they plan to purchase a device that places a plastic seal over the meal trays to prevent spills and keep the food fresh for transport. If students return to remote learning, meals will likely be delivered on buses as they were before.
The school calendar will look different this year with remote planning and remote learning days added in. Using remote learning days, teachers will start on Monday, August 3 and have the first full week of school to get ready for this “not normal” school year. No students will attend during that week. A parent / teacher conference will be held on Friday, August 7 to help parents get adjusted to this new way of learning. Parents will be asked to fill out a student needs assessment and registration packets.
Students’ first day of school will be held on Monday, August 10. The school calendar will be similar to last year’s calendar, but students will have an earlier and longer Christmas break if no remote learning days are used in the first semester.
If COVID-19 cases spike and the State of Illinois moves backwards in the Restore Illinois plan to Phase 3 again, students will have participate in remote learning. All students will be given a learning device for at-home use at the beginning of the school year to use so they will be prepared whether they are attending a blended school day or remote learning day. Physical Education will be the only class fully remote this school year.
In addition to the fact that all students will be seen every day, there are many pros to the a.m. / p.m. plan that the Reopening Committee discussed. Since only attending one-half of the day, students will wear masks for a shorter period of time. Child care may be easier since grandparents, teens, or other individuals could pitch in and help watch students before or after school for just a few hours, rather than for a full week if the other plan was chosen. According to Alisha Foster with Family Counseling Center, counseling referrals dropped tremendously while students were off during remote learning in March, April and May. She said having that connection with the school opened up more resources for students, adding to the idea that our kids need to be seen each day.
Until the state moves into Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan, students, parents, and teachers, alike, will have to adjust to a new way of learning. In light of all of the details that have to be worked out before school begins, Superintendent Edmondson cited this quote from Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
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