DANVILLE — The state mandate requiring teachers to be vaccinated or take weekly coronavirus tests could lead to Danville School District 118 not having enough staff for classes and possibly having to have an emergency closure next week.
Superintendent Alicia Geddis said at Wednesday night’s school board meeting that she talked with an Illinois State Board of Education official this week and asked about her options if on Monday she has hundreds of staff members who haven’t submitted their COVID-19 vaccine information yet.
Geddis said was told she could have to cancel school or use an emergency day.
“So, I want the parents to be informed. If in fact on Tuesday I am forced to call an emergency day or close school, it is because 300 staff members who have not complied with the mandate given to me, not District 118’s mandate, the state mandate given to us, I am forced to exclude them from school and I will do so. And we will have to close school,” Geddis said.
She said she wanted people to be aware.
School board president Randal Ashton asked “do we want to close school?”
Geddis replied “absolutely not.”
“We don’t want to see this happen,” Ashton agreed.
If the school district doesn’t comply with the vaccine mandate, the district can lose state recognition, students can’t participate in Illinois High School Association sports, funding is lost and high school diplomas mean nothing, Geddis said.
“We are between a rock and a hard place,” Ashton said.
Geddis said she has a job to do, and they understand people have their opinions on the mandate.
Board member Shannon Schroeder said staff have been asked to put their vaccination information on the school district’s Skyward computer software system.
Geddis said she’ll take testing results from staff up to Monday.
“If we have a large enough percentage, number of staff that cannot come to work on Monday, we can’t safely and effectively open our buildings and teach our students,” Schroeder said about what they’ve been told by Illinois State Board of Education officials.
“We are all being pressured from the top down. I am very sympathetic with many of you,” Schroeder added.
The consequence of having an emergency day, like a snow day, would mean an extended school year. Those days are tacked on the end of the school year.
“We will make those days up,” Geddis said, of any understaffed days.
School board member Thomas Miller said he will be praying.
“I hope we have enough staff in place next week to continue the education of our students,” he said.
Board member Darlene Halloran said she sees t-shirts in schools that say “We are family.”
She said there’s no time better than now for the school district to pull together as a family and look out for the children and each other.
The board also heard from South View Upper Elementary School nurse Claire Pascual who said she’s exhausted and overwhelmed with COVID-19 contact tracing, and her true nurse duties are being pushed aside.
She said in putting 1,700 students out of school due to COVID-19 exposure when 11 percent test positive for COVID-19 and 16 percent show no symptoms, “we’re letting students down.”
She suggested students without symptoms be allowed to stay in classrooms, and the district hire contact tracers.