CLINTON — The Clinton school board voted Tuesday night to allow parents and guardians to choose what they feel is best for their family for students returning to school this fall. The choice will be remote learning or in-person classroom with masks for the entire semester.
“There will be no negotiation about wearing masks,” said Superintendent Curt Nettles. “Everyone has got to stay masked. No ifs, and or buts. Any student who refuses to wear a mask is leaving.”
CUSD recommends daily in-person instruction for all students but with a shortened school day. Start times will remain the same but all schools will dismiss at 1:30 p.m. Teachers will work until 3:45 with the after-noon time used for planning, professional development and assisting students.
The Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE) has issued the following mandates:
• Face covering be worn by all students and staff while indoors
• Social distancing in all areas of all buildings as much as possible
• Limit of 50 people per space, including buses
• Students and staff must be symptom free before entering the buildings or buses
• Increased cleaning and disinfection of school properties
• All students must receive a minimum of five hours of instructions daily whether in-person or remote.
ISBE also recommends preparations be made for all students to use remote learning in case it is needed again.
The district is offering a remote learning option for families, but the choice must be indicated when registering students online, which be-gan July 22. In-person registration will take place Aug. 6.
The school district sent out a survey to parents earlier this summer seeking opinions about remote learning and received close to 900 responses, “which I roughly think reflects about 1,200 of our students,” said Nettles. About 20 percent of the respondents said they may not send their children back to in-person school.
Nettles presented a slide show at Tuesday’s meeting that included the following logistics for the new school year:
• Limited student movement from room to room, as possible
• Limited hallway traffic, as possible
• Limited locker use, as possible
• Keeping physical distance between students, as possible, while masked
• Keeping physical distance between students when not masked, such as eating, outdoor physical education or outdoor breaks.
• 50 people maximum in one space, such as cafeterias, gyms, or outdoor space
The board left open the option of hiring a third-party vendor for remote learning. A final decision on contracting that service will be deter-mined later. Any additional costs for remote learning will be absorbed by the district.
“Remote learning won’t be like it was last spring,” said Nettles. “Students will be expected to be involved and engaged. There will be work to do. They’ll be assessed on it; they’ll be graded on it.”
In addition, the district is working to determine families who need Internet access in their home. Families with concerns about access should contact their building principal. Nettles said the district will work with those families on remote learning access.
The proposed plan presented Tuesday night recommended staff and parents “self-certify” daily that they are symptom-free. Teachers pre-sent at meeting expressed concerns about the self-certifying pro-cess and requested temperatures be taken daily at the schools.
The board requested each building principal to create and present a plan to the board on how they could facilitate daily temperature checks of staff and students. Any student of staff member with a temperature of 100.0 or higher will be sent home.
In addition, the district approved the installation of transparent barriers in each school and health offices, signage to reinforce health and safety protocols and education about the protocols. Cleaning and disinfecting will be done throughout the day and each evening.
In-person events will be replaced with virtual events where possible and schools limit non-essential visitors. Parents will be provided with instructions on when and how to visit school offices.
Bus transportation will be available with everyone wearing face coverings. No more than two students will be allowed in each seat with siblings seated together. A maximum of 50 students will be allowed on each bus. These same protocols will be observed for any athletic team transportation.
Food will be provided for the students, but masks must be worn until seated and may only be removed to eat. Hand sanitization stations will be provided prior to eating. No self-service of any kind will be allowed, and lunch areas will be sanitized between lunch shifts.
“If you think how lunchrooms usually look...lunch can’t look like that this year,” said Nettles.
The school district Is awaiting more information from the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA), and the Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE) about fall athletics but agreed all required safety protocols for athletes, coaches, sponsors, participants and spectators, will be observed.
However, if athletics and club activities are approved and proper safety requirements are met, the CUSD board approved students be al-lowed to participate. Protocols for these activities will be created by the district.
“We will have to disseminate information as we get it,” said Nettles.