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ALAH School District votes for full in-person learning five days a week with reduced hours

Remote learning options are available

Staff Writer

“The safety of our kids and staff are important,” commented Superintendent Shannon Cheek at the special board meeting of the ALAH School Board on Thursday, July 30 at the Atwood-Hammond Grade School. The board met to vote on their return to school plan during the COVID19 pandemic.

Shannon Cheek presented a slide-show presentation and discussed with the board and public the goals, challenges and health measures that the district would be taking as school resumes. “Want to create a workspace and learning environment that is safe for our students and staff according to the Illinois Department of Public Health,” he stated.

Shannon informed everyone that the district had been collaborating with the department of public health through ZOOM meetings as well as looking at the guidelines of the CDC. He also said he had been meeting with other area superintendents in the district to see what their plans were too. Many of the surrounding districts had plans that involved returning to in-person learning with reduced hours. “That seemed to be the popular trend in our area,” noted Shannon. We had to develop and implement a plan that could be flexible to the changing conditions- as changes could develop along the way,” he said. The district also had to make sure that they were following state guidelines as well, which included having at least five hours of daily instruction. “We had to consider what challenges everyone (staff, students and families) are faced with no matter how they come back to school,” Shannon quoted.

As the district developed and discussed their plan, they were faced with many challenges. One of the challenges was trying to come up with a plan that met all of the needs of the community – parents, students, teachers and staff. “It will be an ongoing issue no matter what plan we come up with. It was tough,” noted Shannon. Shannon added that it was tough, because the guidance that they were receiving from the nation and the state was constantly changing. “It can be frustrating,” he said. “We want our students to be with our teachers, but we realize that it can present challenges right now,” he added. “We are trying to provide an option for all parties for the learning integrity of our kids,” quoted Shannon.

Another issue that the district was faced with was making sure everyone had access to the Internet (for remote learning), as connectivity was a challenge that some families were faced with. Thanks to grant money, all students will have access to a Chrome device. The district also has hot-spots available for those needing online access. Still there were some, because of where they were located, connectivity could be an issue. Because of that, the district was looking into resources around the community such as the library.

Along with guidance from the nation and state and challenges that the district faced, they also have to follow several health guidelines. Some of those guidelines include the wearing of masks by everyone in the building, checking for symptoms for those who enter in the building (or self certifying at home), maintaining a six feet social distance and having no more than 50 people in one space. Shannon also informed everyone that each building has created a “Return to Learning Task Force Committee,” that will help with making decisions as changes present themselves.

After Shannon’s presentation and discussion by the board, a vote was unanimously passed to return to “full in-person learning” five days a week for students and staff with reduced hours. The grade schools will be dismissing at 1:17 pm each day and the high school will dismiss at 1:30 pm. The district will follow this schedule through October 1. After that date, the district will review the plan to see how it is working and make any necessary changes that might need to be made. Students return to school on Wednesday, August 19.

Shannon also informed that there are choices for remote learning for those who choose to do so. Once a student chooses remote learning though, they must do so for at least one semester. A student can choose remote learning from a third party instruction that offers all the support that is needed and also would be less intensive for the district’s staff. Another choice of remote learning is for students “logging on” being present “LIVE” during classroom time. “Remote learning will not look like it did in March,” stated Shannon. “There will be grades and students will be required to be “in class” (remotely) on the computer at certain times,” he said. If a student starts out remote learning through a third party vendor, they will do that for a semester. Then they can switch to teacher led if they decide to do so. If Illinois requires that all schools change to complete remote learning, those who were doing “in-person learning,” will change to remote learning that is “teacher-lead.”

“We are trying to communicate the best we can with the parents in our community. This is ever-changing. We may communicate weekly or we could communicate daily. I ask that you extend grace and patience with me and our district, because we will need it,” Shannon quoted.

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