MOUNT CARMEL — On Friday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered that all schools in the State close through March 30, in an effort to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
Pritzker said in a new conference that while children seem to be less susceptible to virus, this decision was an effort to protect those who are more vulnerable to the illness.
While Pritzker was in Chicago preparing to make his remarks to the State, Superintendent Chuck Bleyer was in Mount Carmel, and a step ahead of the Governor.
Bleyer released a statement on the school website, closing school indefinitely. All extracurricular activities were also included.
“The decision to suspend was due to a recommendation from the Wabash County Health Department to close for public health concerns,” Bleyer said. That recommendation letter is posted on our website at www.wabash348.com. However, within three hours, the governor mandated all closures of all Illinois public and private schools beginning on the 17th. Wabash CUSD #348 will be closed Monday.”
Bleyer said that while students are out of the classroom, the district is working on a way to keep their mind on learning.
“The administration, faculty and staff are working toward an eLearning plan that will be designed to keep the students academically engaged throughout the mandated closure,” Bleyer said.
Allendale students are also being offered resources for learning during this hiatus.
“Allendale CCSD 17 will be working with its school community to promote the educational process for students during this unprecedented time,” Allendale Superintendent Bob Bowser said. “At Allendale, we were in the middle of completing state assessments. Last week we were on science testing and the upcoming week was going to be math testing. So right now, we are going to encourage all of our students to read on a daily basis and provide parents with free online resources their child can do from home if technology is available. As we receive direction from the Illinois State Board of Education, we will be able to make decisions on how we proceed with state testing when we return.”
It is unsure how this may change the end of the semester, but Bowser said that will be discussed in the future.
“As of this moment, the Allendale CCSD 17 Board of Education hasn’t made any decisions on the final day of school or changes to the school calendar,” Bowser said. “The Governor and the Illinois State Board of Education has said the days from March 17-30 will be considered Act of God Days, which we do not have to make up.”
Another issue that arises from the school closure is providing meals to students who may depend on that nutrition served at school.
In Mount Carmel, The Lunch Wagon is offering free sack lunches to children 0-18, on March 16-20. The Lunch Wagon will be at Cherry Street Estates from 10:30-11 a.m., the MCES Parking Lot from 11:15-11:45 a.m., Lambert Drive Parking Lot from 12-12:30 p.m. and Lincoln Park from 12:45-1:15 p.m.
Allendale is also offering lunches to children in need by delivery. Allendale CCSD 17 will be providing our school community an opportunity to get a free breakfast and/or lunch delivered to their door. This is for any child 0-18 years of age living within the school community, regardless of their enrollment in the school.
“As information kept coming from the Illinois State Board of Education last week, it became a realization that the school could continue providing meals to our children in the community,” Bowser said. “This is a difficult time for all: parents, kids, teachers, staff members. If taking the burden of worry away about meals is a help, then that is a good start. I have to give a lot of thanks to Karla McCowen and Sarah Courter. Their help in the organizing and communicating of this service was very instrumental, especially since it was done on the weekend. Just to show what kind of people work at Allendale CCSD 17, faculty and staff have been signing up to help in the packaging and delivery of the meals to our children in the community. So, not only do these folks care for, teach, and keep the building looking great for our school community, they reach down and band together for the betterment of all in times of need. It is truly a blessing to work with the faculty and staff at Allendale School each and every day.”
At some point, students will return to the classroom. Bowser said it is up to him and his staff to hit the ground running when they do return.
“I really think the key to getting back to education when we return will fall on myself and the faculty and staff,” Bowser said. “If we set the tone from the get-go, then it will be ok. The relationships the faculty and staff have developed with the kids will be instrumental. There is more to an education than reading, writing, and arithmetic, and I know our faculty and staff will cover all the bases in order to finish the year strong to provide the best education possible.”