BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington District 87 has meetings scheduled for next week as it joins other K-12 schools in deciding how to react to the COVID-19 pandemic and keep educating children.
District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly told school board members Wednesday night, “It’s a moving target that we’re working with.”
Illinois State University’s two laboratory schools — University High School and Metcalf Laboratory School — announced Wednesday that their current spring break will be extended for another week.
“With spring break looming, that’s a good thing” that provides time for planning, Reilly said.
The district has developed “e-learning” plans that have been approved to provide alternative education methods when schools are closed for events such as bad weather, but Reilly said, “It wasn’t intended to be for long extended periods of time.”
At Wednesday's Unit 5 school board meeting, Superintendent Mark Daniel said the district is considering all options when it comes to continuing education for the students, keeping safety at the forefront.
"We are going to ramp up the process of e-learning," Daniel said. "It may happen by the time it’s needed, if it’s needed, or it may not."
Reilly said administrators and teachers are “already working real hard on this,” and a meeting of administrators is planned for Monday.
Another meeting, involving representatives of teachers as well as administrators will take place Wednesday. Reilly said that was the earliest everyone could get together. On Tuesday, the Illinois State Board of Education is offering a webinar to school districts regarding the coronavirus.
Dayna Brown, spokeswoman for Unit 5, said the administration is sending updates to the district community every few days.
"Things are changing as we speak," Daniel said. "We are trying to stay very much current. We are tapping into the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); we’re tapping into the ISBE, in regards of state guidelines."
Colin Manahan, District 87’s chief financial and facilities officer, told the board that school buses are being wiped down daily.
Daniel said hand-washing education has been implemented at Unit 5 and while students are on spring break, the custodial staff will undertake a deep cleaning of all 24 buildings giving extra attention to high traffic areas, doors and restrooms.
"We are seeing things now that we have never experienced before," he said. "So we’ll cross those bridges; we’ll use our best information we can find and our primary contact is CDC."
No cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in District 87, Unit 5 or elsewhere in McLean County.
“At this point the ISBE has made no recommendation that we close,” Brown said. “Could that change? Anything could change.”
Reilly said District 87 knows of a family that traveled to Italy and is due back Monday. However, with Italy virtually shut down, it’s not clear when they will actually return. In addition, President Donald Trump on Wednesday suspended travel between the United States and Europe for 30 days.
When they do, Reilly said, they will be asked to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and self-quarantine for 14 days. The same recommendation will be made to anyone who travels to a country with a Level 3 warning from the CDC. Those countries include Italy, China, Iran and South Korea.
Such absences would be considered "excused," according to the ISBE.
“We do not have the authority to exclude students,” said Reilly.
Guidance from the State Board of Education said students can only be excluded by state or local public health officials.
Reilly asked for “patience and understanding” during his rapidly changing situation and advised everyone to “take a deep breath — maybe not around too many people.”
Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.