Dist. #205 School Board discusses returning students to classrooms, decision to be made next month

School board members for District 205 are expected to make a decision next month on whether or not students will return to classrooms after the first five weeks of the school year or continue remote learning.

The board was given an update at their Monday night meeting, on how the district is proceeding with the screening of faculty and staff, and the metrics being used to monitor how the district and region are fairing.

Courtney Knuth, the Health Services Coordinator for the district, about the metrics and data the district is using, including the county tests results and test positivity rate of the region.

Additionally, Knuth explained the procedures the district is following for monitoring everyone entering the buildings, which includes a health screening and temperature check as they enter the building.

Staff members that enter the district’s buildings are being asked to keep track of where they’re going and who they’re interacting with to help with cleaning and disinfecting as well as possible contact tracing.

On the subject of contact tracing, Superintendent Dr. John Asplund told board members that if the buildings are opened up with no precautions or monitoring of movement, then the district is at a disadvantage for a potential outbreak.

“In speaking to the Knox County Health Department, we will have to be a lot of the contract tracing for people going forward,” Asplund told the Board of Education. “They have nine people. And so, if we are going back to school in any fashion with students, we are going to have to be doing most of the contact tracing ourselves. So, if we just open the builds and say ‘anybody can come in’ we then have greatly limited our ability to contact trace.”

On the subject of numbers, the district says that as of Monday there are currently four staffers and a student that are in isolation with a positive COVID-19 test result. While two staff members and six students are quarantined because of close contact.

Besides the metrics and the difficulty with screening thousands of students before school, Dr. Asplund explained another difficulty that the district is facing.

“At this moment in time, we have eight people who said they were going to sub in the district. And if we’re just talking about teachers on any given day in a typical year in the district we’re going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 subs that are needed. And so, if we have [a teacher that was] out, we’d have a very, very difficult time subbing for that teacher this year.”

Asplund adds that they could move back to teaching in-person but if data starts to shift they’ll have to quickly move back to remote learning.

He said that the district will, again, be surveying staff, students, and families about what they’d like to do moving forward.

The board is expected to decide next month on returning students to classrooms are keeping students in remote learning.

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