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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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Bourbonnais schools approve half-day COVID-19 fall reopening for K-8

BOURBONNAIS – Bourbonnais Elementary School District #53 (BESD) voted Tuesday night to approve a half-day learning instruction plan for grades K-8 with a remote learning option. The motion was unanimously approved by the Board.

The Board approved details of the plan to be figured out by Superintendant Dr. Adam Ehrman and Administration staff before the beginning of the school year. The plan includes a grab-and-go lunch for students. As part of the plan, a period of afternoon learning remotely would be included for students as well.

Early Tuesday night, Manteno Schools offered a similar return plan.

“The remote option is a no brainer. The full remote option for anybody who wants it is a no brainer. So what it comes down to is, how many hours a day do we want kids to be at school?” School Board President Rob Rodewald said during the meeting before the vote. “Longer school day, face-to-face, better education.”

A disclaimer was presented in plans to the Board before the vote in a presentation given by Superintendant Dr. Adam Ehrman. It read: “We acknowledge that our COVID-19 Return to School Plans are intended to mitigate, not eliminate, risk. No single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but implementation of several coordinated interventions can greatly reduce that risk.

On Tuesday, Kankakee County surpassed 1,700 cases of COVID-19 to date, of which 447 cases were listed as active with 12 hospitalized for the Virus. According to the Kankakee County Health Department, in the last week, new cases included 25 children teenage age or younger. The disease has been reported since March to cause symptoms of Kawasaki Disease in school-age children.

Less than 500 cases shut down Illinois in March, at the time no cases had been reported in Kankakee County. Kankakee County didn’t report a first case until March 19th, days after Illinois schools shut down for the Spring.

Before the presentation, the board was informed by teachers 82% felt they wanted to return to classrooms in the district with only 15% saying they wanted to return full time. Over 60% of all teachers felt a blended option could work in Bourbonnais, while 44% said they feared for their safety in returning to the classroom.  

A recently deep cleaned gym at Alan B. Shepard School in Bourbonnais. Bleachers have been removed due to safety concerns inside of the gymnasium. [Photo: BESD #53]

Feedback gathered from Teachers, Principles, Technology Director, Director of Student Support Services, Chief School Business Officers, Building Leadership helped shape proposed plans presented Tuesday night. A key component of the evolving plan was to find a plan that worked together for five different schools ranging in age groups that could quickly be shut down if a ‘Remote Learning Option 2.0 Plan’ needed to be quickly implemented, coming from a state level.

Changes in basic student behavior were a part of the return to school plan presented Tuesday, including regular attendance for in-person and remote learners, no sharing supplies, and backpacks to be carried class to class.

The non-medical remote option learning plan will be available for any student who so chooses to take it. Parents should expect it to be for the duration of the first semester through Jan 15th, 2021 which mirrors the in-person school day as much as possible. Attendance is required with standard-based grading being used for both remote and in-person learning. Remote Learning Option information was found in the plan presented Tuesday night and is subject to change.

As part of in-person learning plans presented Tuesday night, altered classroom layouts, COVID Symptoms Procedures, COVID Positive Student or Staff, Quarantine Space, and COVID Related Discipline were all briefly touched on. Details on all are expected to emerge before the beginning of the fall semester.

“Records will be kept of time in and out, symptoms, temperature, and parent contact.” The District plan explained of Quarantine Space procedures. It added COVID-19 discipline is a ‘learning curve.’ “Administration and teachers will be mindful of this learning curve, and will take that into account when determining if the student is being repeatedly non-compliant, thereby impacting the safety of others.”

The board took into consideration information from ISBE, CDC, and AAP in the return to in-person learning. The Board’s decision borrowed from plans of neighboring districts to allow more time for cleaning following the end of in-person instruction after every school day. Safety measures including temperature checks, social distancing, and mask mandates along with additional handwashing and sanitation services.

A motion had been made to return to a full 7-hour learning day for grades K-6 with alternating 7th and 8th grade days prior to the vote. That motion was defeated by one vote. Board members Nicole McCarty, Jamie Freedlund, and School Board Vice President John Hall voted in favor of the full-day return while Kelly Dunnill, Richard McBarnes, and Jayne Raef and President Rob Rodewald voted against.

August 19th is scheduled as the first full day of school for Students in Bourbonnais. The Board plans to meet again on August 12th at 7 pm to review the evolving details of the plan. 

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