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Staff outages ease in Bloomington schools


The head of Bloomington District 87 told school board members Wednesday evening staff shortages caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus have begun to ease. But Barry Reilly said the district is not out of the woods yet. Reilly said teacher outages have been high for several weeks.

"We have gone from over 100 to below 60 today, which is really great," said Reilly.

Reilly said current staff absences are still above normal.

Lack of substitute teachers remains an issue for the district and may continue for years, he said.

Reilly said District 87 has covered for its lack of staff and subs by having teachers use their planning time to sub.

"You can do that on a short-term basis and it's not a huge deal, but when you have to do it for long periods it gets extremely stressful because it takes time away from them to plan and that means they have to do it basically on their own time at night when they are trying to take care of their own families," said Reilly.

Mask Mandates

Some school districts have said the furor over the lawsuit by some districts against school mask mandates has encouraged parents to tell their kids not to wear masks. Some, like Tri-Valley, have even stopped enforcement of mask requirements and exclusion of close contacts who were asymptomatic to avoid what they call a distraction.

Reilly said District 87 is not one of the districts with many scofflaws.

"You are talking about a school district of over 5,000 students. When you have one to two, that gives you a good impression of how kids are handling it," said Reilly.

Reilly said the discussion of the lawsuit and mask policy has been more disruptive and annoying for adults than for kids. He said he is hopeful and anxious for the state to get to an endpoint soon. Reilly said the lawsuit appeals process might lead to a resolution.

Math Methods

The school board approved the purchase of a new math curriculum Wednesday evening. The program from Illustrative Math costs $146,000 for the first year. That includes teacher manuals, all materials, and setup. The annual renewal fee is $60,000.

“What a lot of people might not realize is that while a $146,000 price tag may seem like a lot of money, when you are talking about a K-5 math curriculum, that is extremely on the cheap. To be able to find a well-vetted curriculum that meets our standards and addresses the needs of our kids at a cost like that just helps everybody,” said Reilly.

The learning plan is standards-based. Reilly said the heads of curriculum and a wide swath of professionals vetted the program and chose it from among five potential offerings.

Jack Graue is a student reporter at WGLT. He joined WGLT in summer 2021. He is also a student in the School of Communication at Illinois State University.
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