WHEATFIELD — Kankakee Valley Superintendent of Schools Don Street explained the current plan for returning to traditional learning for the 2020-21 school year. He presented different scenarios for learning depending on the level of COVID-19 spread in the county and school district.
The administration will monitor the rates of spread in the community and if there is a change, they will adjust. Some of the changes in the works are adding hand sanitizer to each classroom, promoting hand washing for students and staff, and assigning seats on buses and in the cafeteria to make contact tracing easier if a student does test positive for the virus. Classroom desks will be arranged to afford social distancing if possible, and rooms with tables will have plexiglass installed between individuals for safety.
The attendance policy will be revised to show a student may not return to school until they have been without a fever for 72 hours without taking any fever reducing medications.
Facemasks or coverings are not required, but “strongly recommended,” especially for students riding buses. There is guidance for parents to teach their younger children how to wear a mask and to get used to wearing one. While they are not mandatory at present, Street said, they may need to change that.
Social distancing will be encouraged as much as possible and the schools will discourage students from congregating in groups in the hallways and at recess.
Each building will have its own set of protocols for maintaining social distancing during entering and exiting the schools, passing in the hallways and cafeteria seating.
Parents and visitors will be limited in when and how they may be allowed into the school buildings.
Administrators return to the schools on July 22, and parents who are hesitant to send their children to school can call that school to discuss an alternative learning program. Street said these programs are a semester agreement.
If it becomes a minimal to moderate spread of infection, there are three options the schools may follow, including closing the building and going to e-learning while a thorough cleaning and sanitizing is done or keeping the traditional school plan while incorporating more restrictions and disinfecting, especially in frequently touched areas.
Water fountains are closed with students allowed to have water bottles instead. Some of the fountains are being made into water bottle filling stations.
Eighth grade science teacher, Tom Sparks, spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting’s agenda. He said he is “very” concerned that facemasks are not required. He and other teachers are at high risk for infection. “As someone who’s had a recent health issue, it’s kind of terrifying to me that it doesn’t seem like we’re worrying about the teachers,” he said. He said he wants to go back to school but doesn’t feel safe about it. If he is exposed, he could potentially expose his wife who works with a terminally ill child.
During his presentation of the plan, Street said staff will be allowed to wear PPE as will vulnerable students, and also allowing those students to dismiss before the rest of the class as is already done in the schools. He said the administrators will be meeting next week to develop protocols for each school.
“This is where we are today,” Street said. “We could be in a whole different place tomorrow.”
The school board approved the plan in a 7-0 vote.
Personal Finance, a requirement for graduation
High School Principal Mike Spagna told the school board he would like to have the Personal Finance course, which is a one semester course, be added to graduation requirements, beginning with the current eighth grade class when they become freshmen. “It would be beneficial for students to have that,” he said. They need to learn about credit cards and credit card debt, loans, banking, etc. He recommended the class be taken in the sophomore year.
“It ties really nicely in the 10th grade year,” he said. The class is already in the curriculum so no additional personnel would be required.
The school board accepted the resignations of two longtime staff members, intermediate school principal, John Shank, and high school math teacher Judy Roberts, both of whom have been with the school district for over 40 years. Street said they were both “outstanding educators.”
Resignations were accepted from Meghan Stalbaum as DeMotte Elementary School mild interventionist, Lindsey Preston as high school art teacher, Chase Estepp as intermediate school fourth grade teacher and high school JV football coach, Mikinsey Pruim as an elementary school special education aide, Greg Welch as physical ed and Project Lead the Way teacher and Crystal Zeilmann as art teacher, all of the last three from the intermediate school.
Theresa Effinger resigned as boys’ junior varsity tennis coach. To replace Estepp, Justin Fuqua was approved as the JV football coach and Thoomas (Bud) Fuqua as volunteer football coach. David Walstra was approved for assistant soccer coach for the girls’ varsity team.
The board approved the hiring Holly Fischer for middle school eighth grade math and Dorothy Loslo as middle school mild interventionist, both filing a vacancy, and Tracy Ribicki as assistant principal at DeMotte Elementary, moving from special education teacher into the administrative role.
A three-year standard contract for Street was approved as well effective July 1 of this year through June 30, 2023.