In-person learning is the goal

Vandalia School District officials have set the goal of having all students return to the classroom this fall, even if it’s with some special guidelines.
Whether that will be possible depends on the status of the coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Garrison said during Tuesday’s school board meeting that the district is planning for three options.
And, she emphasized, it is just planning at this point.
Illinois is expected to enter into Phase IV of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, and Garrison said it’s uncertain at this point what that means for schools.
She said districts have not yet received Phase IV recommendations and mandates from the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health.
“We have begun our planning for all three options laid out to all school districts in the state,” Garrison said.
“Our goal is still to return in person, if at all possible, with all of the safety and health mandates being met,” she said.
Garrison said that the state superintendent of schools has said that the guidelines for Phase IV could possibly be the same as those for Phase III for schools.
Those include 6-foot social distancing, “So, looking at our space and our teaching staff, along with our teaching assistants, we can run it about 50-percent capacity.
“Again, this is just planning – we are in the planning stage,” Garrison said.
She said that if parents and others in the community start receiving surveys, “it’s just to gather data.
“We’re working actively on those plans the next few weeks,” Garrison said. “Our instructional model will come out in July.”
With regular in-person instruction being one option and operating at 50-percent capacity being a second option, the third option is remote learning, the same as what was done for the fourth quarter of the recent school year.
Remote learning would return in the fall, Garrison said, “If we would have a local outbreak (of COVID-19) and would be required again by our public health officials to shut down for a set amount of time.
“I just want to be clear that planning does not mean implementation, but we have to be prepared for all three options in August,” Garrison said.
She said that she has joined with Regional Superintendent of Schools Julie Wollerman and Vandalia district nurse Joy Lewis “to give the Illinois State Board of Education our feedback from a rural downstate district … and they they have to take that to a state perspective.
“We do have a voice,” Garrison said. “Not everything that we recommend might actually come to fruition, but at least we have that opportunity for the two-way conversation at the state level.”

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