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Dunlap School Board Hears Concerns About Reopening

Dunlap School District 323

With school set to open in just days, members of the Dunlap School Board heard concerns about the possible spread of the coronavirus at Wednesday’s board meeting at Dunlap High School. Classes at the district are set to reopen Monday.

Shauna Segler, a seventh-grade teacher at Dunlap Middle School, said educators are facing the most difficult school year of their careers. She told the board that classrooms will not accommodate the adequate social distancing.

“In one of my in-person literature sections, I have 30 students. I have 15 tables in my classroom, each measuring 5 feet in length. I will have two students at each table sitting right next to each other,” explained Segler.

“In my classroom and in many other classrooms throughout the district, we’ll have students sitting within 18- to 24-inches of each other for 96 minutes.”

Anjali Yedavalli, a senior at Dunlap High School, was one of four seniors who asked the board to reconsider a return to the classroom. She said Peoria’s significant increase in cases should give the district pause.

“We’re only getting worse right now,” said Yedavalli. “That doesn’t mean we’ll only be getting worse forever. But it just means that we have to change our behaviors in the community before we jump head-first into this logistically complex and, frankly, very experimental reopening plan.”

A petition has been circulated with 1,700 signatures that appeals to the board to reconsider opening classes next week, according to one of the students.

Board members heard about the district's extensive plans for remote learning at Wednesday’s meeting. Dunlap students have the option of returning to class or taking classes remotely.

About one-third of Dunlap’s 4,400 students have elected to attend classes remotely, said Meghan Bagby and Matt Andrews, the director and assistant director of curriculum and instruction. They noted that 36% of the district’s elementary students were scheduled to study online along with 34% of middle-school students and 26% of high-schoolers.

Bagby said that 82 online classes will be taught by Dunlap High teachers, while about 40 classes with low enrollment will be taught through outside programs.

In the event that an uptick in coronavirus cases in Peoria area forces the return of Phase 3 restrictions, all Dunlap students would move to remote learning except special education students. Those students would continue to receive in-school instruction.

In other business, the board approved an annual $47 million budget with board president Abby Humbles voting no. while unanimously increasing pay for substitute teachers to $130 a day.

Dunlap superintendent Scott Dearman said the district needs more substitute teachers and might benefit from the fact that Peoria Public Schools have elected to go all-remote, a move that might provide additional candidates for temporary posts in Dunlap.

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Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.