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

SJO board approves back to school plan

St. Joseph-Ogden High School has created a plan for the 2021-22 school year.


A plan that is subject to change.


“It could change tomorrow,” Superintendent Brian Brooks told the Board of Education. “Our number one emphasis has to be how we can get the kids back to normal with their education and make the school as safe as we possibly can. Our seniors are the only kids that have had a normal high school year at SJO. We want to try to take steps forward not backwards.”


For now, students at SJO will be in school for a full day with masks strongly recommended for unvaccinated students and staff but not required.


“Our position is that we strongly recommended it,” Brooks said. “It gives them options.”


Per guidance from the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health students will be required to wear masks on buses.


Brooks also stressed to the board that any type of harassment for wearing or not wearing a mask will not be tolerated. If a teacher wants to do an activity that would require students to be closer together the district will provide masks in each classroom for them to wear.


As far as quarantine, Brooks told the board that vaccinated students and staff will not have to quarantine unless they have symptoms. Unvaccinated students and staff who are not wearing wearing a mask will have to quarantine if they are within three feet of a student or staff member who tests positive with COVID-19. If they are wearing a mask the distance changes to six feet.


“That is a big difference and a big deal,” Brooks said. “We wanted that really bad last year. We can’t have everyone here and do six feet but we can have everyone here and have every classroom at three feet.”
Brooks stressed that the district can legally ask who is vaccinated and who is not.


“It is not a HIPAA violation,” he said.


Students will be allowed off campus lunch, there will be one way hallways and congregating around lockers will not be allowed. Parents will be required to symptom screen their students before sending them to school.
Brooks stressed that any student or staff member can wear a mask.


“There are just different rules if you get into a quarantine situation,” he said. “It won’t become an issue until someone has Covid and if the person is a close contact.”


Brooks said he understands there are families in the SJO district that have strong opinions over masking.


“We are trying to move forward educationally,” he said. “I feel like we are being consistent with trying to follow the CDC and IDPH guidelines. We are following those and at the same time people are getting a choice.”

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