DANVILLE — Danville District 118 officials will prepare plans for three different learning environments, with one of them possibly being implemented in the fall.
Superintendent Alicia Geddis told school board members Wednesday night that how the fall semester plays out will largely depend on what State Superintendent Carmen Ayala and the Illinois State Board of Education ultimately decide, but for now the state wants districts to make plans using a three-model approach.
The district will create three sets of plans: teaching children in person in a classroom, teaching children via remote learning, and teaching children using a hybrid of both in-person and remote learning.
Geddis, however, said in-person classroom teaching will not occur until Illinois reaches Phase 4 of its reopening plan and the Illinois Department of Public Health approves reopening schools statewide. Illinois reached Phase 3 today.
“If school reopens, it will not look like a pre-pandemic experience,” she said. “They (State of Illinois) expect us to have increased social distancing and sanitizing measures.
“We will need to figure out how to acquire large volumes of sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and cleaner,” she said.
Board member Lon Henderson said he was concerned how larger schools, such as Danville High School, would reopen once Illinois reaches Phase 4.
“Phase 4 allows for only 50 to gather at one time,” he said.
Geddis agreed with his concerns. “There are 1,500 kids at DHS alone.”
“We have to hope this will get clearer as time goes on,” Board member Dr. Randal Ashton said of the state’s reopening plans.
Geddis said she plans to make a recommendation at the next regular school board meeting on June 17 about whether students at Northeast Elementary Magnet School — who follow a year-round balanced calendar and would start their school year in July – will follow a traditional school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year only.
“Our calendars are on hold until we hear from the state,” she said, adding that the state may decide to start school after Labor Day if Illinois is close to Phase 4 by September.
Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education John Hart said he supports moving the start of the traditional calendar to a later date if that’s what it takes to allow in-person classroom learning.
“Remotely is not the best model of learning for kindergarten through second grade,” he said.
If state officials decide that districts will conduct only remote learning in the fall, Geddis told board members that might affect District 118 staffing and prompt a Reduction in Force of support staff.
“We are going to have to look at non-certified staff,” she said.
The board also heard that the state has amended its 2020-2021 guidelines for health examinations and immunizations for school-aged children. The new guidelines now exclude the “first day” rule in which student immunizations must be up-to-date by the first day of school. The new deadline for physicals and immunizations is Oct. 15.
“It’s going to be difficult for pediatricians to perform physicals and immunizations by the first day of school,” Geddis said.
Geddis admitted there are still more questions than answers as to how school will proceed in the fall.
“Please understand we’re responding to the considerations we were asked to by the state,” she said.