Virginia board hears Return to Learn plan

  • Virginia board hears Return to Learn plan
    Virginia board hears Return to Learn plan

    Virginia School Principal Mekelle Neathery presented the Return to Learn Plan during Monday’s meeting of the Virginia School Board.  According to Mrs. Neathery, Return to Learn and E-Learning are different aspects planned for the upcoming school year.
    About 30 percent of the families completing a school survey indicated they are considering or completely sure their students will not be attending classes at the school building beginning in August.
    Mrs. Neathery made the distinction between E-Learning and home schooling. All parents have the right to home school at any time, however, they do not receive any support from the school district, including curriculum or lunches. E-Learning, though, is completely supported by the district with textbooks and either hard copy or electronic materials.
    The board approved a COVID-19 Policy which uses guidelines given by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). All students will have temperature checks before getting on the bus, before getting out of a car or before being allowed into the building if walking to school. Students will be asked a series of questions by a team of the district staff. Except during lunch, masks must be worn anytime they are in the building and throughout the school day including travel time on the bus. Superintendent Gary DePatis stated the courtesy drops throughout the community may have to be discontinued during the pandemic.  
    Mrs. Neathery indicated she is creating a video for families of the community to help explain the Return to Learn Plan. According to Mrs. Neathery, she and the planning team know the school district and the families need to work together to get the plan to work. Their top priority is the safety of students and staff including the mental wellbeing of all, she said.
    According to the Return to Learn Plan, staff and students will have to adhere to all IDPH and ISBE guidelines which includes wearing masks, observing social distancing as much as possible, and daily screenings. The district decided not to have students self certify regarding possible symptoms, although teachers and staff will.
    This year the way students enter and exit the building will be changed. School wide cleaning will be daily and extensive deep cleaning will be done on Fridays with students receiving educational instruction through E-Learning that day. Mrs. Neathery stated there may be days when  internal subbing may be necessary due to a sub shortage in the district.
    No water bottles will be allowed since all fountains will be shut down. Lockers will be staggered as well as older lockers used to keep social distancing. Staggering will also be part of the release times at lunch times. Only two elementary classrooms will need to eat in their classrooms. All students will need to learn the school’s new routines and procedures.
    One of the new aspects of the COVID-19 policy requires the district to provide an isolation room with restroom and be close to an exit. The district has an area already available. It was noted that all visitors will have to follow policy.
    “We are building a whole new world we’ve never seen before,” Mrs. Neathery said.
    DePatis informed the board that the bus driver position and school nurse position have been posted. The bus driver position can be full time since it is in the budget and approved. The superintendent also stated that the aide who travels with students to the Sangamon Area Special Education District (SASED) will be full time. On the days they are not at SASED, the aide will be in the classroom at Virginia. All aides for Individualized Education Program (IEP) students have been included in the budget.
    Changes were made to student/parent handbooks which include a separate document with information on the pandemic. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) graduation requirements have been included which state that graduating seniors must complete the FASFA application, or file a letter stating they are not planning post-secondary education. Language from ISBE concerning information on time-outs and restraints will also be included. The school district will print the handbook.
    Students will be required to bring their own non-prescription medicines as well as any doctor-prescribed medication. Also of note, wording concerning the availability of cell phone usage during lunch time was removed. The district does not allow cell phones to be used during that time.
    The board entered into executive session to discuss the hiring of extracurricular staff including fall coaches and class/organizational sponsors.  All coaches and sponsors were hired.