AMBOY — A tentative school re-opening plan was discussed during the Amboy Board of Education meeting held at Central School and via Zoom on July 17. Superintendent Joshua Nichols said this is not a final plan and some changes may be necessary depending on further guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Lee County Health Department, the Center for Dis-ease Control, and local virus conditions.
Nichols noted that the school dis-trict’s Transition Planning Committee, which has been working on the plan, held their fifth meeting earlier that day. “This tentative plan addresses priorities that were established by the committee with the core focus being on student and staff safety,” he said.
The tentative plan will allow parents to choose between remote learning or in-person instruction. In order to meet the two different learning styles, the school day will be broken into two sections: a six-hour in-person instruction time period and a 1-hour remote learning time period. Nichols emphasized that as with any plan during these unprece-dented times, it is subject to change in response to any new guidance and/or a spike in virus cases within the Amboy School District. “We need to fully prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that there will be periods of full remote learning this coming school year,” Nichols said. “The plan right now is based on the parent survey which indicated that 20 percent of parents wanted a remote leaning op-tion. If this demand either increases or decreases, then the plan itself will need to adapt to meet the demand.”
The Governor’s Executive Order 2020-44, which was followed up by guidance from ISBE, created a list of non-negotiable requirements in order for schools to have in-person instruction.
• Requires the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings.
• Prohibits more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space.
• Requires social distancing be observed as much as possible.
• Requires schools to conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings or boarding a bus.
• Requires an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.
Amboy’s plan to manage the non-negotiables includes:
Face Coverings - All students and staff must comply with the mask requirement in order for the district to return to in-person instruction. Students or staff with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, with a note from a doctor, will be allowed to not wear a mask. Any student refusing to wear a mask will be transitioned to remote learning.
Social Distancing - We will, to the greatest extent possible, provide appropriate social distancing within the buildings. Lockers will not be used; student movement within the buildings will be limited as much as possible; K-8 students will remain in one classroom, teachers will rotate between the classrooms; and lunches will be eaten in multiple locations as opposed to the cafeteria.
Symptom Screening and Temperature Checks - All students and staff will have their temperature checked prior to entering the building or boarding a school bus. The district is currently exploring the self-certification option through ParentSquare.
Cleaning and Disinfection - The district has purchased additional Clorox 360 electrostatic sprayers for all of the school buildings.
Exclusion and Illness Guidelines
• If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the period of exclusion starts from the day of the positive test.
• If a student exhibits one (or more) symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
• If a student has returned from a location with sustained widespread transmission, potentially including areas located within the United States.
• If a student had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. (Close contact means that the student was within 6 feet of a symptomatic person for more than 15 minutes.) The period of exclusion starts on the date of the most recent close contact.
• If a student has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and exhibits one or more additional COVID-19 symptoms.
Numerous questions regarding the re-opening of schools were asked by parents attending the meeting both in person and via Zoom.
If someone in one of the school buildings tests positive, will contact tracing be done?
Nichols said if there is a positive test, the Lee County Health Department would take over as far as contact tracing.
Will PPE be available at school?
The district has 2,000 masks at each school building, which may be used in case someone forgets or does not have a mask.
Everyone is required to wear a mask on the bus and there is a limit of 50 people per bus.
How will band classes be handled?
Nichols said they will minimize student movement for band. The full band will not all meet together as they would normally. Instead, students will practice in smaller groups. The exception would be, weather permitting, the whole band could meet outdoors where social distancing could be maintained.
If a student is doing remote learning, can they still participate in band/chorus?
Nichols said the district already allows homeschooled students to attend band/chorus classes at school, so that would likely be the same for remote learning students.
Board president Nicole Jones emphasized that even though the district has a tentative plan, it is all subject to change. “Please be patient because we have to wait for the state,” she said.
Nichols also noted that he expected additional guidance from the state any day, so a more definite plan should be in place in time for registration. In the meantime, he said the tentative plan will hopefully help parents make a decision on whether to have their students attend school remotely or in-person. He encouraged anyone needing further information or having questions about a specific school building to reach out to him at (815) 857-2164 or firstname.lastname@example.org or to contact the student’s building principal.