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Masks Recommended In Unit 10 Schools To Start School Year

By Stephanie Malench

smalench@timestribunenews.com

The Collinsville School District released its 2021-22 Return to Learn Plan on the district website on July 23. The Plan is a requirement of the American Rescue Plan Act and was “developed in accordance with the ARP Act and the Illinois State Superintendent of Education declaration of July 9, 2021; is aligned with guidance provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control; and addresses adjustments needed in response to evolving COVID-19 pandemic circumstances”.

The administrative team began meeting in May to develop the plan and collaborated with the Madison County Health Department on July 13 before posting on July 15 a public hearing to be held on July 26.

Unit 10 schools will be open fully for in-person learning for all student learning days. Remote instruction will only be available for non-vaccinated or vaccine ineligible students only while they are under quarantine consistent with guidance or requirements from a local public health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In his video message accompanying the plan on the morning of the 23rd, Dr. Brad Skertich reminded the Kahok family “the Return to Learn Plan posted today will adapt and change. The best word to describe the district’s 21-22 Return To Learn Plan is ‘fluid’.

Skertich also said “we have two choices: work together and make the most of a difficult situation, or implode, and fight amongst ourselves. One thing we can all agree on is our students need to be in school on a consistent basis”.

Highlights of the plan include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions in the CDC’s Order;
  • It is expected that each child will carry a mask with them during the school day, as “per the Illinois State Board of Education, the district may REQUIRE staff and students to wear masks as a layered mitigation strategy during the school day or for part of the school day and/or an extended period of time”;
  • Reasonable accommodations (clear masks, shields, etc.) will be made for students with disabilities in accordance with CDC guidelines and the ADA;
  • arranging furniture, play spaces and naptime materials to model and reinforce physical distancing of at least three feet and movement, when possible;
  • maintain seating charts;
  • providing assigned seating for students and encourage students to remain in these seats to the greatest extent possible;
  • physical distancing measures are to be done in an equitable manner that does not perpetuate academic, racial, or other tracking (e.g., separating people into fully vaccinated and non-fully vaccinated cohorts;
  • assisting young children with handwashing; using hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol (for teachers, staff, and older students who can safely use hand sanitizer) when hand washing is not possible.

Students and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as influenza (flu) or COVID-19, should stay home and contact their healthcare provider for testing and care. Students and staff who are not fully vaccinated should quarantine after a recent exposure to someone with COVID-19. Fully vaccinated people who were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 but do NOT have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine or be tested. Quarantine decisions will be made and communicated by Madison County Health Department officials.

Parents are required to complete a COVID-19 Daily Checklist before sending their child(ren) to school. Staff must complete the same checklist before coming to work each day.

Only essential personnel can visit during the school day and proper mask use is recommended by all visitors who are not fully vaccinated. Nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations with people who are not fully vaccinated are discouraged from visiting schools.

The antigen testing program that was started during the second semester of last year will still be available for symptomatic students and staff.

Written comments will be accepted via the website (kahoks.org) through noon on July 26 for the public hearing to be held that evening at 6 p.m. in the Administrative Annex. The full plan is also available in English and Spanish on the website.

This is a developing story that will be updated after the public hearing on July 26.

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