Students in Sherrard were back in school on Monday, for the first time in more than 150 days.
Parents had a choice of full, 5 day in-person attendance, or fully remote learning to begin the school year. It was the first time students were in the classroom since March 17, when Governor JB Pritzker closed schools in an executive order due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The district's plan has students arriving an hour late to give teachers extra time to prepare for remote learning and allow custodians more time to clean and sanitize.
Winola Elementary and Sherrard Elementary Schools begin their school days at 9:45 a.m. and end the day at 3:35 p.m. Matherville Intermediate School begins at 9:40 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. The junior and senior high start at 8:40 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.
To begin the school year, junior and senior high school students won't use lockers to avoid close-contact. Custodians will clean bathrooms once an hour and teachers will sanitize desks between classes. In lieu of water fountains, every school now has a hands-free water bottle filler, and students bring water bottles from home.
District-wide the percentage of students going remote is 22.7% . Percentages by school are:
Winola Elementary: 30%
Sherrard Elementary: 15%
Matherville Intermediate: 23.5%
Junior High: 22%
High School: 22%
Eleven committees were created to come up with the plan. A 'frequently asked questions' page on the district's website offers updates, and a flexible framework was established with the caveat that plans can change, per state guidelines.
The district is prepared for a full return to remote learning should the need arise.
Superintendent Alan Boucher said the framework was adopted following the release of the Illinois State Board of Education document outlining requirements for schools, in conjunction with the Illinois Public Health Department.
Instructional Technology Coach Steve Miller said remote learning will look different now that the district has had time to craft a tech plan — and purchase audio and video technology through grants.
He said a grant from the Looser Flake Foundation totaled $125,000 for technology-related purchases, the federal CARES grant totaled $190,800, giving Sherrard more than $300,000 of unplanned revenue to offset the costs of technology for enhanced remote learning.
“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 and provide wi-fi), professional development and software,” said Miller.
Miller said the video and audio technology they’re implementing will make the difference in ease of use for teachers, and seamless for students.
“I’m very confident about what we can do now," Miller 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.”
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