October 28, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO could return to full in-person instruction

St. Joseph-Ogden High School is starting to plan for the future.

Superintendent Brian Brooks said the school is looking into the possibility of having students in school for in-person instruction every day.

Brooks said the earliest that could happen was March 29 because they want to give parents time to make adjustments to their schedules and allow teachers the chance to be fully vaccinated.
The district has been tracking data at the school, within Champaign County and statewide. Brooks said those numbers are declining. Brooks also said that since schools are having sports the district feels they can be safety in school every day.

“The data is trending in a way that I think we can get our kids back here every day,” Brooks said. “My feeling on it is we are in the middle of playing basketball, getting ready to start football. If we are saying it is safe to do that then we should give them the chance to be here all day every day.”

There would still be a remote option for families that are not comfortable with their students being at school due to COVID-19 concerns.

Currently 40 students are fully remote, Brooks said.

The district would like to maintain the current 8:10 a.m. to 2:07 bell schedule to allow teachers to have time to work with students who are doing fully remote learning.
Brooks said their are drawbacks to having all students return to the building. Brooks said it would not be able to maintain six feet of social distancing in classrooms and there would be times at lunch where students were not six feet apart.

“Most classroom desks would be four feet apart,” he said.

Brooks said masking will still be required and desk would face the same direction, however under current IDPH guidelines if a student tests positive for COVID students who sit closer than six feet to the positive student in each of their class would be required to quarantine.

“So there will be a higher probability for students to be quarantined any time we do have a positive case,” Brooks said.

Brooks said any changes in COVID-19 numbers could make the district go back to their hybrid schedule if they did make the change to every day in-person instruction.
“The easiest thing for everyone involved at this point is probably to stay with our current schedule through the rest of the year,” Brooks said. “However we feel very strongly that we have a responsibility to offer the very best education we can to students and we would be doing them a huge injustice if we did not explore the possibility of offering them double the amount of in-person instruction they are currently getting.”
The district will make a final decision no later than March 12.

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