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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Unit 5 Calls Time Out On In-Person Instruction

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Unit 5 is calling a tempory halt to hybrid learning, keeping about 13,000 students at home until Dec. 7.

UPDATED 5:35 p.m. | Unit 5 schools will move to all-remote learning starting next Wednesday because of rising coronavirus infection numbers.

The current plan is to come back to hybrid instruction on Monday, Dec. 7. Some districts have said in and out moves don't provide enough consistency for students and have canceled in-person instruction until the end of the year.

Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle said the district will assess what to do in shorter chunks of time.

"We told parents there may be some back and forth and we have to be ready to pivot and change. Unfortunately, that is the kind of situation we have this year with COVID. But we really value the importance of our in-person learning," said Weikle.

She said the district will let parents know by Dec. 4 what will happen on Dec. 7 as it continues to study case numbers, positivity rates, and other metrics.

Weikle said there have been numerous COVID cases in the last 10 days.

"We've had almost 100 students and staff test positive. And then more than 500 students and staff in quarantine because of a close contact with someone who tested positive," said Weikle, adding that does not include people who have symptoms, but do not yet have a diagnosis.

The shift back to remote learning affects thousands of families, each with their own child care and work arrangements. Unit 5 has more than 13,600 students.

On Thursday, the union that represents Unit 5 teachers called for a return to 100% remote learning.

"At this point, the only decision that prioritizes the health and safety of staff and students is to return to Remote Learning until we’ve collectively taken the steps necessary to control community spread and create an environment where returning to school in-person is safe for those of us who work there and the students we care about who learn there," the Unit Five Education Association said in a statement.

District 87 will return to an all-remote schedule for the week of Thanksgiving, and the week after the holiday, the district announced earlier this week.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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