Sherrard school board chooses blended option for student return

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
Left to right, Sherrard school board members Todd Anderson, school board president Rhys Fullerlove, and Superintendent Alan Boucher wear masks and sit socially distant during the board's meeting solidifying a framework for reopening school last week. Screenshot from video webinar meeting, Cala Smoldt.

Cala Smoldt/Correspondent

The Sherrard school board approved a blended model to reopen school Aug. 17 during its July board meeting July 15. Parents have the choice of students attending all five days in-person, or students can enroll in remote learning. It was a 6-1 vote, Sue Lyon gave the single dissenting vote on the measure.

“We want to make sure we have an excellent education for all students,” said Superintendent Alan Boucher about the myriad of options schools are exploring for safe student return in the fall.

Per Sherrard’s approved framework plan, students will arrive an hour late to give teachers extra time to prepare for remote learning, relieve students some time wearing a mask during the school day, and allow custodians more time to implement increased sanitation measures across the district.

Eleven committees were since created to address specific details for every facet of in-person and remote learning, they plan to update a 'frequently asked questions' page on their website, https://www.sherrard.us/domain/397. The framework was established with the caveat that plans can change, per state guidelines, and the district is also prepared for a full return to remote learning.

Boucher said the framework was adopted following the recent release of the Illinois State Board of Education document outlining requirements for schools, in conjunction with the Illinois Public Health Department.

Per guidelines handed down by the state, all students, teachers and staff are required by IDPH to wear face coverings at all times in school buildings, except while eating and during band - even when social distance is maintained.

Exceptions include: a medical contraindication, are under 2 years of age, have trouble breathing, or are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the face covering without assistance. Face coverings are not required outside if social distance is maintained (if individuals remain 6 feet apart from each other).

The document also states social distance must be observed as much as possible. While desks do not need to be spaced six feet apart; it is recommended that excess furniture be removed from classrooms to allow for as much space as possible in between desks.

Other highlights include: No more than 50 individuals may be on a bus at one time, face coverings while riding the bus; increased sanitation, including bathroom cleaning every hour - and sanitizing areas where students have been; and school districts must conduct temperature and symptom screenings, including temperature checks. (www.isbe.com)

Per those guidelines, as well as survey results from parents and staff - the framework was presented to the board - and ultimately adopted.

Instructional Tech Coach Steve Miller assured the board remote learning will look different now that the district has had time to make a remote learning plan - and purchase audio and video technology through grants.

He said a grant from the Looser Flake Foundation totaling $125,000 for technology-related purchases, the federal CARES grant totaling $190,800 means more than $300,000 of unplanned revenue for Sherrard.

“The CARES grant will fund most of our PPE, new computers (bags, Google software and carts) for all first and second graders, a mental health case worker, internet broadcast devices for 2 buses (to be parked in Coyne Center and New Windsor), professional development and software,” said Miller.

Per the plan, snow days will now be remote learning days, according to Mr. Boucher.

Lyon, school board member and teacher in another district, said she has concerns about remote learning, “I was so impressed with our teachers (last year), I don't want to overwork them. I know the work that goes into e-learning and I know the work that goes into planning my day, a normal day. Now to do both... that’s a lot.”

Miller said the video and audio technology they’re implementing will make the difference in ease of use for teachers, and seamless for students, “I’m very confident about what we can do now… We’re going to up that interaction for the kids who go remote, and it’s just going to look better. A better look - give families more access to technology and the internet... that part is just going to get better for us.”

The board also approved $14,250 to solve a rain run-off issue onto a neighboring property at Matherville Intermediate.

“Eight contractors showed interest, but only two submitted price quotes. The price quotes were much too high… I talked with Ken Hoffman from Outdoor Innovations, and he met with Maintenance Director Dave Ziegler and the Matherville neighbor who is concerned about the runoff water. Ken described to them a proposal that was agreeable to both Dave and the neighbor,” said Boucher.

No news yet on whether students will play football in the fall, according to Boucher. He said they await determination by IHSA (Illinois High School Association) - who is working with ISBE and ISPH to release guidelines.

“One would think sports like Cross Country (track), you would be able to socially distance…

There are alot of students that have worked for many years developing their skills developing their skills and enjoying the competition, for them to lose out on that their junior or senior year, that would be very disappointing. We hope they can come up with a plan that keeps the kids/fans safe - and something the kids can have some enjoyment in those sports,” he said.

Currently, students are allowed to practice under strict guidelines.

Performances for the marching band are also up in the air, “They don’t know yet how they’re going to be ablet to perform. Maybe they can do a modified parade or something, we don’t know exactly to what degree they’ll be able to perform for people, they’re certainly making preparations so they can,” said Boucher.

The board also:

-Discussed graduation set for 2020 graduates Aug. 1, 10:30 a.m. at the High School parking lot. The rain date is Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. The ceremony will be broadcast via WRMJ and attendants will remain in their vehicles.

-Amended the calendar to include Nov. 3 as a “no-school” day per a governor instituted state holiday. This pushes back the last day of school by one day, to May 26.

-Approved employment of Shawn Hanna Sherrard High School physical education. Pending receipt of Illinois certification, and Becky Hutton STV supervisor per contract stipend.

-Approved resignations, Brad Hofmann, Sherrard High School Physical Education teacher effective immediately, Aaron Sullivan, Winter Play Director effective immediately, Troy Beverly, District bus driver effective immediately, John Welch, assistant junior high football coach effective immediately.