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Superintendent: Few Problems As Unit 5 Returns To Hybrid

Unit 5 district offices
Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle reported low infection rates at all schools in the district since hybrid learning resumed.

Unit 5 students made a good transition back to hybrid learning after the holiday break, according to district administrators.

Superintendent Kristen Weikle said students still had good safety habits and routines from before the layoff.

"We are not seeing any widespread (infections) in any of our schools. Naturally, we still have some students and or staff who might test positive. But they appear to be testing positive from outside of the school setting. That's reaffirming. And then, of course, locally our numbers have decreased," said Weikle.

Last week, there were 40 postive tests among Unit 5 students and staff. The largest number was nine at Normal Community High School. The district dashboard showed 122 newly quarantined students and staff.

Weikle said student infections might be a little less than the rest of community spread.

Coronavirus testing on site at Unit 5 high schools will begin within the next two weeks.

"Staff testing will take place after school hours and then student testing will take place at student lunches outside of the cafeteria in a private space where we can have students grouped," said Weikle.

Electric automaker Rivian and the testing firm Reditus have each given $500,000 to pay for the testing at Unit 5.

Meanwhile, the Illinois High School Association has approved the start of most winter and spring sports beginning Jan. 25. Weikle said Unit 5 is gearing up for that as well.

"We actually just had a conversation Thursday morning about reminding principals to remind athletes about social distance as much as possible," said Weikle.

Student-athletes will have to wear masks during scrimmages, but Weikle said managing risk is still important.

"Having the testing availability at our high schools will be significant to just help us monitor. Are we seeing spread within the student-athletes or not? And, if so, hopefully get a head start on that, so that way we can quarantine anyone who was a close contact," said Weikle.

Like all things pandemic, everything is a moving target. The IHSA has a meeting Jan. 27 to provide further guidance on K-12 sports.  The original winter season was supposed to begin in mid-November.

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