SHERRARD — The Sherrard school board approved a model to reopen schools Aug. 17 during its meeting July 15. Parents have the choice of students attending all five days in person, or students can enroll in remote learning. It was a 6-1 vote; Sue Lyon gave the single dissenting vote on the measure.
“We want to make sure we have an excellent education for all students,” Superintendent Alan Boucher said about the myriad of options schools are exploring for safe student return in the fall.
Under the approved plan, students will arrive an hour late to give teachers extra time to prepare for remote learning, relieve students some time of wearing a mask during the school day and allow custodians more time to implement increased sanitation measures across the district.
Eleven committees were created to address specific details for every facet of in-person and remote learning. They plan to update a 'frequently asked questions' page on their website, https://www.sherrard.us/domain/397. The framework was established with the caveat that plans can change, per state guidelines, and the district is also prepared for a full return to remote learning.
Boucher said the framework was adopted following the recent release of the Illinois State Board of Education document outlining requirements for schools, in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health.
All students, teachers and staff are required by IDPH to wear face coverings at all times in school buildings, except while eating and during band — even when social distance is maintained.
Exceptions include: a medical contraindication, are under 2 years of age, have trouble breathing, or are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the face covering without assistance. Face coverings are not required outside if social distance is maintained (if individuals remain 6 feet apart from each other).
The document also states social distance must be observed as much as possible. While desks do not need to be spaced 6 feet apart; it is recommended that excess furniture be removed from classrooms to allow for as much space as possible in between desks.
Other highlights include: No more than 50 individuals may be on a bus at one time; face coverings must be worn while riding the bus; increased sanitation, including bathroom cleaning every hour and sanitizing areas where students have been; and school districts must conduct temperature and symptom screenings, including temperature checks. (www.isbe.com)
Instructional Tech Coach Steve Miller assured the board remote learning will look different now that the district has had time to make a remote learning plan and purchase audio and video technology through grants.
He said a grant obtained from the Looser Flake Foundation ($125,000 for technology-related purchases) and the federal CARES Act ($190,800) would mean more than $300,000 of unplanned revenue for Sherrard.
“The CARES grant will fund most of our PPE, new computers (bags, Google software and carts) for all first- and second-graders, a mental health case worker, internet broadcast devices for two buses (to be parked in Coyne Center and New Windsor), professional development and software,” Miller said.
Snow days will become remote learning days, Boucher said.
Lyon, school board member and teacher in another district, said she had concerns about remote learning.
“I was so impressed with our teachers (last year); I don't want to overwork them," she said. "I know the work that goes into e-learning, and I know the work that goes into planning my day, a normal day. Now to do both ... that’s a lot.”
Miller said the video and audio technology they’re implementing would make the difference in ease of use for teachers and making it seamless for students.
“I’m very confident about what we can do now," he said. "We’re going to up that interaction for the kids who go remote, and it’s just going to look better. A better look — give families more access to technology and the internet ... that part is just going to get better for us.”
Like athletic participation, performances for the marching band remain up in the air,.
“They don’t know yet how they’re going to be able to perform," Boucher said. "Maybe they can do a modified parade or something. We don’t know exactly to what degree they’ll be able to perform for people. They’re certainly making preparations so they can."
In other action:
- The board approved $14,250 to solve a rain run-off issue onto a neighboring property at Matherville Intermediate.
- Discussed graduation set for 2020 graduates at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 1 at the high school parking lot. The rain date is 6 p.m. Aug. 2. The ceremony will be broadcast via WRMJ, and attendants will remain in their vehicles.
- Amended the calendar to include Nov. 3 as a “no-school” day per a governor-instituted state holiday. This pushes back the last day of school by one day, to May 26.
- Approved employment of Shawn Hanna for high school physical education, pending receipt of Illinois certification, and Becky Hutton as STV supervisor per contract stipend.
- Approved resignations of Brad Hofmann, Sherrard High School physical education teacher, effective immediately; Aaron Sullivan, winter play director, effective immediately; Troy Beverly, district bus driver, effective immediately; and John Welch, assistant junior high football coach, effective immediately.