The Unit 5 school district said it is seeking guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education before deciding whether to require vaccinations for staff and students.
Superintendent Kristen Weikle said the impact of the coronavirus vaccine on school district plans depends on how quickly the general public and educators can get vaccinated.
“I have seen photos of health care workers this week get the shots. I’m hopeful that education will be one of the early ones (segments of society) to receive the shots if they choose to,” said Weikle. “We need that herd population to be vaccinated.”
There are numerous projections, but little certainty about how long it will take to roll out substantial vaccination nationwide and in the state. It is apparent that will not affect Unit 5 plans to return to hybrid learning in January.
Weikle said Unit 5 has adjusted the data it will use to make decisions on when to have staff and students in school to reflect current conditions.
“Rather than only looking at the metrics for the county, we will more closely monitor our metrics within the building,” said Weikle. “We have seen a lot of districts who have been able to open their doors and been able to keep kids in school with temporary pauses.”
During the week of Jan. 4-8, learning in Unit 5 will be remote only. Hybrid learning will likely resume Jan. 11.
“Just to allow a few more days to hit that 10-day marker in case our students and staff are with friends and families over the holidays. The 10 days signifies the number of days in quarantine if there were to be a close contact," Weikle said.
She said the current estimate is for a COVID peak in late January, and Unit 5 wants to maintain a hybrid structure to ensure seating distances of 6 feet or more in the classroom, lunchroom, and passing periods.
“Then we’ll be looking at is it safe for students and staff to bring back some groups five days a week,” said Weikle.
Five candidates submitted petitions for three open seats on the Unit 5 School Board in the April election on the first day of filing.
Weikle said she looks for certain things in a school board member. The board supervises the superintendent.
“First and foremost I want someone who is going to care about students and understands that the school board sets policy and that it’s up to the administrative team to carry out the policy that the board sets,” said Weikle.
In a WGLT interview, Weikle declined to say which specific issues she would like to see candidates discuss during the campaign, including how the district would respond to budget cuts driven by a $4 billion state budget deficit if the governor and lawmakers were to pass some of those down to school districts. She also declined to say whether she would like candidates to address the question of a tax referendum to counter Unit 5’s fiscal stresses.
“I can certainly see where some people might discuss that,” said Weikle.
Weikle took over as Unit 5 superintendent nearly six months ago. In that time, she said she’s pleased with the relationships she has begun to forge with staff and teachers, even though the pandemic has complicated that effort. She said she has tried to make sure students and staff are safe.
“Obviously, we continue to work on the equity and the diversity in the district through a variety of means, ranging from re-evaluating the processes we have in HR, to retaining quality staff who might be underrepresented, to looking at the curriculum and construction needs of our students through an equity lens," she said.
“I know there is a lot of work we need to continue to do.”
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