EFFINGHAM — Sacred Heart and St. Anthony schools will follow similar back-to-school plans as their public school counterparts, with the exception of offering a remote learning option.

Andrea Wright, communications coordinator at Sacred Heart Church and School, and Andrew Hansen, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois spokesperson, noted that these plans are subject to change at any point.

Sacred Heart and St. Anthony schools are slated to open Aug. 18, and students will attend five days a week.

Sacred Heart will have an extended daily dismissal process, which will start earlier in the day than previous years. Wright said students who ride the bus home will be dismissed at 2 p.m. and parent pickup will begin at 2:40 p.m.

Wright said Sacred Heart is also taking several health and safety precautions within the school building.

“We will be taking the temperature of everyone — students, staff, visitors — before they come into the building. Our desks are spread out in the classrooms, and we are maintaining a six-foot distance between people,” Wright said. “Everyone in the building is required to wear a mask, which they will provide their own.”

Sacred Heart is not offering a remote-learning option, but Wright said the school is prepared for remote learning if made necessary by the state.

According to a back-to-school update in a recent parish bulletin, classes will take place outside as much as possible, weather permitting, including band and music; there will be no marching band. Students will not have to wear a mask outside.

Students will not visit the library, and instead, the librarian will bring a crate of books to each classroom. After the books are returned, they will sit untouched for three days before being handled.

Morning drop-off and afternoon pickup for students will be distanced and separated by classes. Bus transportation is dependent upon what Unit 40 decides to do, which has not yet been announced.

Should a student or staff member test positive for COVID-19, Wright said the school will work with the Effingham County Health Department to determine the best course of action.

At St. Anthony schools, Hansen said students will utilize larger spaces like the cafeteria and library for classes in order to practice social distancing. Students will also have designated lunch periods.

Hansen said students’ and staff’s temperatures will be taken as they enter the building, and much emphasis will be put on hand-washing and cleaning desks and other surfaces. Masks are required, and schools will use plastic dividers in between each desk.

Hansen said St. Anthony, too, will seek the assistance and guidance of the county health department should a student or staff member test positive for COVID-19.

“Like many medical and scientific experts, just this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that schools can reopen. The safety of our teachers, students and staff is the top priority,” Hansen said. “Students learn best in the classroom, and by following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our schools will open safely and responsibly.”

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.


Kaitlin Cordes covers Effingham County, police and courts and sports features for the Effingham Daily News. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Cordes is a native of Effingham.

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