The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 releases survey data about opening of schools
By Seth Hancock
Only 44.3 percent of staff in School District U-46 say they will return to in-person work regardless of what measures are taken according to a survey released by the district regarding reopening plans during the COVID-19 crisis.
Additionally, only 39.5 percent of English-speaking families say they will send their kids to school regardless of plans and 17.6 percent of Spanish-speaking families showing that fear persists.
U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders released the results in a message in which he said there will be a hybrid model, although details are still pending, and the decision making will be based on outside organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The survey had 3,040 staff respondents and 13,194 family respondents, split between English (12,290) and Spanish (904).
“I think we can all agree that our desire is to eventually return to in-person instruction on a daily basis, safely,” Sanders wrote. “However, there is no way to ensure student and staff safety AND have in-person instruction every day for all students. At least not at the start of the school year.”
For staff, 15.8 percent say they will not return until Illinois is in Phase 5 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, 16.7 percent of English-speaking families won’t send their kids to school until then and 20 percent of Spanish-speaking families. Sanders said at a June 29 Board of Education meeting that Phase 5 will require a vaccine, but no vaccine has ever been approved for any coronavirus strain.
The survey was designed to find out what fears are most important to respondents and asked what regulations they prefer most with six options. The top two for both staff and families were mandatory six-foot social distancing and limited group sizes as well as mandatory face masks at all times regardless if social distancing is being followed.
Staff preferred a hybrid model 36 percent compared to 29.3 percent full-time distance learning and 23.1 percent full in-person learning, English-speaking families showed 38.4 percent support for hybrid compared to 32.1 percent full in-person and 29.4 percent full distance and Spanish-speaking families preferred full distance 42.7 percent compared to 35.6 percent hybrid and 21.6 percent in-person.
The preferred hybrid model was students attending alternating days for staff (35.4 percent), English-speaking families (34.6 percent) and Spanish-speaking families (29.3 percent).
Sanders stated there will be a “hybrid learning model with students attending in-person on a regular basis, but not daily, for the foreseeable future” and it “will be different than the distance learning students experienced from March 13 through the end of the 2019-20 school year, and will more closely align with in-person expectations.” He also asked for a “slower roll-out” with small groups the opening week.
“This will allow staff and students the ability to build relationships, to review expectations around both academics and health and wellness, and build up our comfort level with the return to school,” Sanders stated. “We have been isolated from each other and we will return to our buildings under new social contracts to wear masks, wash our hands frequently, and maintain social distance. We will need to develop and practice these new skills thoughtfully in a nurturing and safe environment.”
The legality of such regulations are in question as well as their effectiveness according to scientific studies.
All of Pritzker’s executive orders since April 8 have been deemed “void ab initio” according to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court in Clay County on Thursday, July 2.
“His executive orders that were grounded in the COVID-19 public health emergency are gone,” said Thomas Devore, attorney representing Rep. Darren Bailey in his case against Pritzker. “They’re gone across the state. They have no force in effect of law right now in any of the 102 counties in this state until an appellate court says otherwise.”
Devore has been hired by the Hutsonville School District for possible litigation regarding the mandatory masks, temperature checks and occupancy limits. He said the ISBE and IDPH “as administrative agencies have no authority whatsoever to try and promulgate these mandates, zero. Those are not my words; those are the words of the Illinois Supreme Court.”
Regarding face masks, the New England Journal of Medicine stated on May 21 that “wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection…. The chance of catching COVID-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.” In July, it clarified that that applied to “passing encounters in public spaces” but not necessarily in “sustained interactions within closed environments.”
A 2015 study by the National Center for Biotechnology and published by the National Institutes of Health was the first study on the effectiveness of cloth masks for healthcare workers.
“The results caution against the use of cloth masks,” the study states. “This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety. Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.”
Additionally, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky provided data at a U.S. Senate hearing from the YMCA in America to 22 European nations that have already opened schools which have shown “no discernable increases in cases” including where no face mask requirement was in place.