Teacher helps with ISBE return to school guidelines

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HOOPESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — A Hoopeston teacher was chosen to help the State Board of Education (ISBE) come up with school reopening guidelines. That is what schools across Illinois are basing their plans on as they decide what to do during the pandemic.

ISBE released the guidelines last week. It is a format for district to follow to keep students and staff safe while also giving them a complete education under these challenging conditions.

In just a few weeks, schools will open during the COVID-19 pandemic, throwing teachers and students into a whirlwind of new and unprecedented expectations. Dylan Swank, a Hoopeston English teacher, helped contribute ideas for ISBE’s health, safety and education recommendations. “These are decisions that are going to have severe and lasting consequences and I think we owe it to our communities to make those decisions with the utmost caution and care,” he stated.

Educators have more responsibilities than ever before to keep their students safe in the classrooms. “These are really, literally, life and death situations in a lot of cases and I think we need to make sure we’re making these decisions appropriately,” said Swank.

ISBE’s guidelines prioritized the importance of in-person learning, recommending specific safety instructions. “The minimum needs to be PPE for every person in the building, ventilation in classrooms and especially knowing what it seems we know about COVID now and how it spreads, routine cleaning and sanitizing, smaller class sizes so we can make sure that students and staff can actually social distance.” But many schools cannot safety open and maintain social distance, so some are doing blended virtual and in-person learning.

While helping to create ISBE’s guidelines, Swank recognized the importance of equity for all students outside of the classrooms. “Ensuring access to internet, ensuring access to technology, we shouldn’t be forcing parents to make decisions about sending their kids into a school if they don’t feel comfortable just because I don’t have WiFi.” Establishing plans for remote internet access is a challenging need many school districts are still trying to meeting. Ahead of this school year, Swank said the Hoopeston School District has set up remote WiFi hot spots throughout the city.

The Hoopeston school board will be voting on its reopening plan Tuesday night. The proposal is to have elementary students in school five days a week and have blended virtual learning for middle and high school students.

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