MOUNT CARMEL — The Wabash School District 348 School Board approved its back-to-school learning plan at Monday night’s meeting, which has an Aug. 24 date for a full return to the classroom.

Superintendent Chuck Bleyer outlined three plans to begin the meeting, proposing a full return, a blending (hybrid) learning method, and a full remote learning return.

Bleyer detailed specifics pertaining to each plan, noting a full return would still include measures such as screenings prior to entry on school buses or school facilities, universal masking (a mask will be provided by the district), and social distancing.

The blended learning method would have split students into two groups: the gold group and the maroon group. In this methodology students would learn both online and in the classroom, but their attendance in-person would rotate.

Remote learning is a rather self explanatory measure, meaning the district would be strictly offering online learning until the COVID-19 threat passes.

Ultimately Bleyer recommended the former, but suggested the school district initiate the school year with a two-week blending learning period to accommodate parents, students and faculty to the new learning.

“I’m asking the board to give us the first two weeks, in this case the 10th, 11th and 12th of August — which are already planning days,” Bleyer explained. “[Aug. 13 and 14] would be using the blended learning plan, and those students would come for half days only, there’d be a grab and go lunch. What we’d do in the afternoons is analyze what worked, what didn’t work, what we need to adjust, how can we be better for the next day. The next Friday would be the other group coming in. They’d get the same exact instruction, protocols on and on and that’s a long process. That’d give us two days, two early outs to analyze and prepare,”

“The following Monday would be a remote learning planning day, which would give the teachers and all of the faculty a chance to prepare without all of the students here. It’s necessary for us to come together and prepare one more time. Then I’d like to have the following Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday be the alternative days, which are the flipping of the gold and maroon groups. The goal of this is that the students would go the whole day now, so we’d have full days for both groups that’d be twice that week. That’d give us the opportunity to work the system out a little more without the stress of all of the students. Then the goal — which I want to put out there — is for a full return on Aug. 24, which would be the following Monday. That would give our faculty and staff, the parents, the students, all of these stakeholders, community members, board members, it gives us a chance to be better prepared to bring everyone in for a full, five-day-a-week schedule. That’s what I’d like to ask the board to consider tonight.”

The ultimate goal — as Bleyer explained — is for a full return on Aug. 24 following the two-week buffer period. With the proposal, parents can opt to have their children learn remotely exclusively. With learning remotely, parents could also elect to withdraw from the remote learning at any time and switch to the in-person setting.

All board members seemed to be on the same page pertaining to the open, likening the opening as a middle ground.

“I think it’s a great compromise, I think it’s a chance to give our staff, our faculty and our students to adjust to what this new normal would be like at school with the full intent of fully reopening,” School Board Member Kyle Peach spoke of the reopening plan. “I think everybody here wants us to reopen. I think we have to do it safely and I think the plan that you talk about makes a whole lot of sense,”

“The plan that you’re talking about, parents who do feel uncomfortable do have the option for remote learning. So they can opt for fully remote learning, even though the school is fully reopened. It also gives those the flexibility, the feel of the risk of coming back to school isn’t a risk they want to take, giving them options to do that, while also reopening school for those who want to be back fully and giving our staff a couple of weeks with our students to work the bugs out. I think it’s a perfect blend.”

Though the school will be open, Illinois Department of Public Health regulations state that a student must remain home if they’re experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms, i.e. fever, cough, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, etc. A student may not be permitted reentry until 10 days after COVID-19 symptoms are first exhibited, and students must have gone 72 hours or more without a fever.

Buses, classrooms and other facilities will be cleaned vigorously to reduce contamination and spread. Students should also bring their own clear, reusable water bottle to school. Doors and windows will be opened to increase air flow, lockers will not be shared, and all field trips will be virtual.

Wabash schools will continue to offer school lunches and breakfast, and students are actually encouraged to purchase on site rather than utilize the school’s open campus policy. Leaving for food elsewhere is permitted, but is discouraged.

Guidelines and restrictions are subject to change at any time in accordance with the IDPH — whether that means more restrictions, or less.

Complete guidelines from the plan will be posted at www.wabash348.com

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