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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

Restrictive approach taken to reopening U-46 schools

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 officials are stressing that the public follow the government’s dictates if parents want schools to open under the COVID-19 restrictions.
  At a virtual Board of Education meeting on Monday, Sept. 28, the district said they could “easily” open schools now like other neighboring districts, but that’s not the intent of U-46’s plan.
  Superintendent Tony Sanders said U-46 “could easily get all kids back into school in a hybrid model pretty quickly,” but the district’s design isn’t to get kids back into school quickly.
  “One of the things that makes us a little bit different (from neighboring districts), in addition to our size, is really the intentionality behind the types of models we’re trying to build for families and for students,” Sanders said.
  Sanders added: “That is not the model that we’re choosing to go. We’re going a little more complex but really in a way we think will better suit the needs of our students where students who choose to be in an online distance-learning format for the remainder of this year or semester really will have that teacher that is devoted to them in a distance-learning classroom. And students and families who choose this hybrid mix and online will also have a teacher assigned to that group of students.”
  U-46 sent a survey to families seeking to find out which families wanted their kids in a hybrid model and which wanted to remain in distance-learning.
  The hybrid day for a select few students, which is tentatively set for Oct. 26, is still in question according to Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction.
  “We are sharing minimal expectations for the hybrid learning until we have additional details that should be finalized after the closure of the questionnaire this week,” Johnson said.
  The district admitted that data from the region and across the country showed that schools that have opened already aren’t facing the problems it expected, but yet, U-46 has gotten more stringent on its reopening plan.
  Responding in a memo to a question from board member Melissa Owens, the district said “it does seem both locally and nationally that hybrid elementary is not as problematic” as it originally thought.
  When the board approved the reopening plan in July, the district expected to bring in small groups of students through the first quarter and start the hybrid model on Oct. 26 through middle school.
  However, now the district will only start the hybrid model for kindergarten through second grade and some specialized groups of students. U-46 said third through sixth grade will return later in the fall or the winter, and middle and high school hybrid learning won’t start until at least the second semester in January.
  Sanders said there’s been a “never ending cycle of change” and he “overpromised and underdelivered.” He said the decisions aren’t being made locally but rather from health departments from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) down to the county departments.
  Owens said it’s frustrating to see neighboring districts already opening and there “really is an urgency” to get some students in for things like high school science labs. Sanders said “we agree,” and Johnson said “that work is ongoing.”
  However, Owens and board member Kate Thommes along with Sanders said the schools can open if the public just obeys them.
  “We really have to press our communities to really do the things we know keeps this disease at bay,” Owens said, and Thommes said: “Please, just wear your mask. Stay away from people.”
  “Agreed…. You’re absolutely right,” Sanders said. He added: “We can prevent it really easily if we chose to do so.”
  The CDC has contradicted itself regarding wearing masks telling Americans originally they are not effective against COVID-19 to then saying they are. It also recently warned those fighting wildfires on the West Coast that masks are not effective as “they do not catch small, harmful particles in smoke that can harm your health.”
  According to the CDC, smoke particles (up to 0.7 microns) are much larger than COVID-19 particles (up to 0.3 microns).

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