The Panhandle School Board approved its in-person learning plan on Tuesday, Aug. 3, in a special board meeting at Lincolnwood High School, knowing full well that plan might change in the near future. The following day, it appears that may have happened.
On Wednesday, Aug. 4, the Illinois State Board released a statement on social media saying, “Led by guidance from the Center for Disease Control, Governor Pritzker has announced an order requiring K-12 school staff, students, and visitors to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks offer the simplest, most effective way to keep students safely in school, where they can learn and grow.”
In Tuesday’s meeting Superintendent Aaron Hopper and the board put emphasis on the safety of the Panhandle students and the community and providing the best learning environment for those students, which they believe is in-person learning.
At the time, the plan was to have in-person learning with masks recommended, but not required for unvaccinated students; Governor Pritzker’s order may change that.
Hopper said that he and the other superintendents of the Montgomery County schools met with Hugh Saterlee of the Montgomery County Health Department and received metrics and information on COVID cases in the county and in the particular school districts. He added that currently, percentages in Montgomery County are lower than some surrounding counties, but added that could change.
Hopper said that the district is also working on two types of COVID testing mechanisms, one through the state, which was stricter, and one through the county. Both are still being researched by Hopper and school nurse Lesley Cowdrey.
Many of the mitigations the school used last year are still in place, including social distancing, closing the water fountains and cleaning of the school. Unlike last year, lockers will be in use, but Hopper said that they are going to make an effort to space the lockers as much as they can and to avoid large groups of students in the same area at the same time.
Hopper said that the school will also have a similar dismissal schedule to last year, with bus riders leaving first, followed by those who drove/rode to school.
Board member Dana Pitchford asked if the schools would be taking temperatures. Hopper said that they have not done that since February or March and didn’t believe that would be necessary at the time.
Board member Scott Cowdrey said that it was a good idea to send a letter home to parents stating it was their responsibility to keep their children at home if they were sick, particularly with a fever. Hopper also emphasized this point.
The approval of the in-person learning plan was the only item before the board entered closed session at 7:16 p.m., but several personnel matters were taken care of when they reconvened at 7:55 p.m.
Kate Wagahoff was approved as a student advisor for the 21-22 school year, while Caleb Wagahoff was employed as a district custodian. The other five additions pertained to athletics as Melissa Davidson was hired as an assistant volleyball coach, Drew Logan was hired as an assistant boys basketball coach and Monty Elvidge, Robert Montgomery and Mark Ferrill were added as volunteer assistant baseball coaches.
The meeting adjourned at 7:58 p.m., with the next meeting scheduled for Monday, Aug. 16.
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