IPSD held a virtual meeting discussing the district’s plans to return back to school on Oct. 5. This plan involves students coming back to an in-person environment in patterns based on their last name and grade on Mondays starting Nov. 2. While the meeting informed the public about the general plan of the hybrid model, little was said about specific safety precautions that will be implemented at the schools. Both students and their families were left to wonder how safe going back to school will truly be.
As discussed during the meeting, students will be required to self certify to be allowed into the building. Self-certification is an attempt to try to make sure that students coming into the school do not have any symptoms related to COVID-19.
“We have not figured out exactly how we plan to do self-certification yet. [Paper self-certification] can be a little hard to do,” Metea Principal Dr. Darrell Echols said. “I know the district is looking for something a lot more efficient, such as having certification built into the ParentVUE. That way, all parents have to do is click a button. We are going to inform parents as soon as we figure it all out.”
If someone inside the school contracts COVID-19, they need to contact the school immediately, whether they are in school or online. This allows the school to be able to contact anyone they might have been around so those students or teachers can begin to isolate and monitor themselves for 14 days according to CDC guidelines. If a student becomes symptomatic after coming to school, they need to let the school know so the same steps can be taken. If a student or teacher begins to show symptoms of COVID-19 during the school day, a self-isolation plan is being put in place.
“They would be isolated immediately. We plan to have an isolation room at the school in case we need it,” Echols said. “We would then move onto getting them sent home, and contact tracing anyone who might have been in contact with them.”
School administrators would then notify the district and work with the DuPage County Department of Health to determine the next steps.
Additionally, safety in the classroom and in the hallways has become a priority. All students are required to wear a mask over their mouth and nose. Hallways will have tape to point students on what side to walk on, along with water fountains being turned off. In the classroom, desks will be spaced over six feet apart to ensure that students remain socially distanced.
Another focal point for safety in school is lunchroom procedures. The high schools in 204 are the only schools that will keep their lunch periods as of now.
“Right now, we plan to have no more than 50 students in any given area. So with that, we are planning to have three to four potential areas for lunch. The seats will be socially distanced and tables will be cleaned between each lunch period,” Echols said.. “Anyone who wants to buy lunch can still get one, only now they will be prepackaged to avoid close contact with other students.”
As the school continues to plan for in-person instruction, there is a strong motivation that drives the hybrid plan.
“We really want kids back into the classroom, and having only 25% of kids coming into the school on Mondays is one of the most responsible ways to do that,” Echols said. “Metea is huge. This was the only way to follow the guidelines given to us by the Illinois School Board of Education,” Echols said. “All classes will still be on Zoom as well, so students do not have to worry about missing any of their instruction if they choose to opt-out of in-school learning.”