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Vandalia schools return Thursday, release plan for second semester

Vandalia school officials announced on Tuesday that the district is returning to its hybrid learning schedule earlier than originally planned.
Also on Tuesday, administrators and board of education members released the district’s plan for returning to in-person learning four days a week for the second semester.
The district announced on Nov. 4 that due to 20 staff members throughout the district testing positive to COVID-19, quarantined as close contacts or out with other illnesses, Vandalia schools were shifting to remote learning through the end of November.
However, on Tuesday morning, school officials said the district is returning to its hybrid model this Thursday.
Information given in Tuesday’s announcement included:
• All Tuesday/Thursday students should attend on Thursday.
Any Monday/Wednesday students who signed up for lunches during this temporary shutdown may pick up lunches at their designated time and location on Thursday.
Vandalia Elementary School, Vandalia Junior High School and Vandalia Community High School will be all having Friday School this Friday for those students who were previously identified as needing to attend on Fridays.
Parents having questions are asked to contact their child’s teacher.
As of Monday, Monday/Wednesday students will attend school in-person.
As of Tuesday, Tuesday/Thursday students will attend school in-person and dismiss early at 2/2:15 p.m..
The school’s Thanksgiving break is from next Wednesday through Monday, Nov. 30.
Dr. Jennifer Garrison, superintendent of schools, went through the general plan for returning to in-person learning in the second semester. The plan in its entirety is on page 7 of this issue.
The district’s aim for returning includes the following statement: “We are considering education and safety with this plan. It is going to take the entire community supporting us for our plan to be successful.
“Large gatherings are spiking our COVID positive cases and creating a situation where we are required to go remote, as we do not have enough staff to keep in person learning up and running. We have choices ahead of us to make.
“We can follow the basic COVID mitigation guidelines to keep schools open for in person learning at 100-percent capacity four days a week (in the) second semester or we will be learning remotely unable to staff in person learning.”
“We just went through an adaptive pause as the entire district, based on the lack of staff,” Garrison said.
“When we had a positive cases, it did go across all buildings, including Okaw (Area Vocational Center). Okaw was able to return on Monday and it is still our intention to return on Thursday,” she said.
“Our goal is always 100-percent in-person,” Garrison said. “If we do not have staff will be learning remotely.
“There have been conversations, I call them focus groups, with parents, we’ve had a parent committee,” she said.
Further, Garrison said, district officials are talking with the Vandalia Unit Teachers Association, the district’s teachers’ union, as well as some other business leaders in the community.
“I talked to the mayor today, (and) we have started what we call situational awareness, weekly briefings with community leaders.
“So, hopefully, we can start this conversation now, and work together as one community to get our kids back together to more in-person learning,” Garrison said.
In addition to discussing the plan to return to in-person learning, the school board had planned to discuss a possible startup of basketball in the district.
The need for that discussion fell by the wayside after Gov. JB Pritzker announced just a couple of hours before Tuesday’s meeting Tier 3 mitigations.
Under those mitigation, all recreation is limited to the outdoors, with 10 being the maximum number of participants.
The Illinois High School Association released a reaction to the governor’s announcement (on page 5 of this issue), and said that it will continue with its plan for a meeting this Thursday “to continue plotting out potential paths for IHSA sport and activity participation through the remainder of the school year.”


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