America’s school systems are poised to reopen school activities this August, and Marshall, Illinois, is no exception. Debates on the best way to open safely and whether students should attend school in person or virtually are happening with school administrations and kitchen tables across the country.
The state of Illinois has mandated that all students returning to school classrooms this fall must wear facemasks. To that end, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has said that they will provide K-12 public school districts in Illinois with 2.5 million cloth face masks.
There are guidelines that schools are expected to follow, but this will depend largely on each school district’s plans and unique situations, including the scope of their student enrollment, facilities, staff, transportation capabilities, and available technology.
Here’s a look at some of the basic guidelines for our state:
• Required use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings
• No more than 50 individuals gathering in one space
• Social distancing whenever possible
• Conducting symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering school buildings are symptom-free
• Increase schoolwide cleaning and disinfection
Marshall wanted the parents and students to be part of the conversation regarding how to return to school as safely as possible. In light of that, they sent out a survey asking whether parents felt their children should return to in-person school or do remote learning. They received 673 responses, which accounted for 1245 members of the student body.
About 70% of the responses claimed to prefer the in-person school experience, while the remaining 30% prefer remote learning. Due to these unusual times, we are living through, Marshall schools will offer parents the choice of in-person or remote learning for their children and will work to accommodate everyone.
Things are likely to change, and this will be fluid. If a student becomes ill, he or she will simply switch to the remote learning option. In the event of a breakout of COVID, which we all hope will not happen, we will be prepared to return fully to remote learning. If our curve flattens, as we all hope and pray, it will, at some point, we will return to in-person learning for all students.
We know this will not be easy regardless, but school activities will resume in the fall in Marshall, and we must work together to make this the best and safest experience for students, teachers, staff, and the families of Marshall as is conceivably possible. We want everyone in Marshall to stay healthy while giving our children the best possible educational experience. We need to be aware that our teachers will have a difficult path ahead. School systems all across America are grappling with this same balancing act.
Here in Marshall, online registration for classes begins on July 26 and will be available until August 7. In-person registration is presently scheduled for August 5, and parents will be asked to make their choice regarding how their children will be attending school at the time of registration. More information on what each option will entail is forthcoming. There will be some difficult changes to endure that will include the use of personal protection, social distancing, and lots and lots of handwashing.
The first day of school activities for students in Marshall is scheduled for August 18. Despite the difficult times, we are living through, excitement about returning to classrooms and education is in the air.
We love our school sports here in Marshall, but there are some difficult changes students will have to face regarding athletics and some extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in positive cases of COVID-19 among high school teams around the state. This means new rules and lots of safety precautions, including the use of masks during indoor practices, no physical contact among athletes while scrimmaging, and no use of weight rooms or gyms yet.
Most practice sessions and workouts will continue to be conducted outdoors. Weight rooms, locker rooms, showers, and gyms will not be used at this time, and no teams from other school districts will be allowed to use Marshall facilities or share equipment. Temperatures will be taken before every practice, and any student exhibiting a temperature of 100.4 or higher or who have COVID related symptoms will not be allowed to participate that day.
The students of Marshall, Illinois, and all the students in America are facing a difficult challenge. There will be some stress for everyone, whether a student and his or her family decide to opt for in-school learning or to stay home and learn remotely. We must be aware of this as a community and as a country and be helpful in any way we can. We have asked a lot of our young people, and they have been exemplary. We are now going to be asking a lot of our teachers and school staff as they have a big job ahead of them learning new technology and dealing with many new and difficult requirements. Let’s honor our teachers, staff, and students this fall and show them kindness and grace in this stressful time.