Schools in Central Illinois are looking at COVID-19 mitigation for the new year

Local News

MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) – For more than a year, schools across the country have been changing how kids get an education. From online learning, to wearing masks, to COVID-19 testing, school administrations and students have been rolling with changes as they come.

It was a year 5th grader Noah Dale said was unlike any other.

“It was really crazy with the masks, COVID and stuff, it’s just crazy with the stuff that happened and it sucked,” Dale said.

Now, with the school year quickly approaching, districts are trying to decide what COVID-19 mitigations they should keep and which ones should go.

Vic Zimmerman is the superintendent for the Monticello school district. He said they don’t have full guidance yet, but they are working on it.

“Social distancing, we’re still going to be doing that to the greatest extent possible. You know, hand washing, cleaning all of the things we did last year,” Zimmerman said. “So, the big question now is, what are we doing with masks and contact tracing.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention put out some guidance for K-12 schools. The state of Illinois adopted that guidance. We found this on their website…

Key Takeaways

  • Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.
  • Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
  • Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
  • Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
  • Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
  • Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, staff, and other members of their households.
  • COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect people, including students, teachers, and staff, who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels.
  • Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).

“In order to be able to have schools open 5 days a week for 7 hours a day, we’re going to have to follow some set of rules, and it’s going to be different, if you’re vaccinated versus, if you’re unvaccinated,” Zimmerman said.

Going in 6th grade, Dale said he hopes this year is different.

“I was hoping this year we wouldn’t have to wear masks,” he said.

We reached out to Champaign, Urbana, Dacatur, Matoon, Danville and Springfield school districts.

We heard back from Champaign, Urbana, and Danville. Champaign and Urbana both said they’re still working on a plan.

Danville is sending out guidance for the new year on Wednesday.

Zimmerman said he will have a plan to submit to the board to consider at the July 28th meeting. He planned to have a draft of that plan to send to parents ahead of time.

Right now, the Monticello school district has something on their website for their most updated plans. You can find it, here.

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