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Daily Journal
     August 21, 2020      #45-234 KDJ

St. Anne schools 'air on the side of caution' with

By Stephanie Markham

ST. ANNE — St. Anne students had only two days of in-person learning before the schools switched gears to remote learning for the rest of the quarter.

Superintendent Charles Stegall, in charge of both St. Anne Grade School and St. Anne High School districts, said that last week two non-teacher staff members among both schools were confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, a third non-teacher staff member at St. Anne Grade School was confirmed to have tested positive.

“It became quite evident quickly that we were going to be in a situation where it was better, in my opinion, to air on the side of caution and go full remote,” Stegall said.

In all cases, the staff members had shown symptoms and opted to receive COVID-19 testing. None of them were in the school buildings Monday or Tuesday when students returned.

The building areas that the staff members had been in prior to the start of school have been deep cleaned and sanitized, Stegall said.

He said the districts also worked with the Kankakee County Health Department to go through the process of contact tracing and determine who was in close contact with the staff members and should quarantine.

“We feel like these situations we’ve had have been handled and mitigated well, but I also foresee additional cases happening down the road,” Stegall said. “We just felt like it was better to be airing on the side of safety and security for our students, at least for the first quarter.”

The back-to-school plan for both St. Anne districts was a blended model that had students attending school for four-hour days and completing 30 minutes to an hour of remote learning after school.

Stegall said that although in-person learning was cut short for the time being, the two days of in-person learning were vital for teachers in developing relationships with students.

“We had two great days of in-person learning,” he said. “It was so awesome to see kids from kindergarten to eighth grade and the high school. They all had their masks on so you couldn’t see their smiles, but you know from their eyes they were smiling.”

About 40 students per district had opted to go fully remote before the year started. Not all students have registered for school yet.

The grade school has an enrollment of about 350 students, and the high school has about 200.

The administrative offices and school buildings will stay open, with staff having the option to work from their classrooms or from home. Some students may still come into the buildings for individual instruction on a case-by-case basis.

Teachers used Wednesday this week as a remote learning planning day, and students will begin remote learning Thursday. The districts plan to have a meal schedule worked out by Monday.

Stegall said in-person instruction is always the goal, so the districts and school boards will reevaluate whether or not to continue remote-only beyond the first quarter, which ends Oct. 16. They will take into consideration COVID-19 trends in the area as well as further communications from the health department.

“When our board(s) adopted our transition plan in July, they understood that it would be a fluid situation, that we could transition in and out of remote learning potentially depending on the situation,” Stegall said. “I’ve always been one who would prefer to air on the side of caution. I might be criticized for that, but I would hate to have something worse happen by not taking a more drastic step.”

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