Unit 40 school board and curriculum committee member Robin Klosterman, left, discusses the district’s back to school plan as Central School Technology Integrationist Mary Dust, center, and district Superintendent Mark Doan, right, listen during a curriculum committee meeting.

EFFINGHAM — The Effingham Unit 40 Curriculum Committee this week heard an update on contigencies for a COVID-19 outbreak after classes resume.

District Superintendent Mark Doan said he spoke with Effingham County Health Department officials shortly before the committee meeting to determine what is required versus recommended in the back to school plan. Doan said he would review those changes to the plan the same day, and the updated plan could be sent out to district families and the public the following day on Friday.

One part of the plan in particular that Doan discussed with health officials was what a return to school could look like for a student or staff member that tests positive for COVID-19. He added that at this point, those plans are tentative and can change.

“Basically what this spells out is how can somebody come back to school and those types of things, whether it’s a staff member or a student,” Doan said of amendments to the plan. “The main thing I wanted to focus on is column four, so (if) an individual — which is a student or staff — has one or more symptoms of COVID-19 but is not suspected of having COVID-19.”

Doan said that often during the school year, students will come have symptoms like a temperature or a sore throat due to other illnesses or conditions like allergies or a cold.

He noted that previous state health department and board of education guidelines mandated that anyone with any symptoms must be sent home. Doan said both the department and the state school board received much push back for this regulation for his aforementioned reason, so it is being reworked and could be released in a week or more.

The state regulation also says students or staff can only return to school from such a situation with a note from a physician.

“Those could be seasonal allergies. Those could be ear infections. Those could be the flu, strep throat, a migraine. My concern is just the cost of a parent having to go to the doctor on those types of things,” Doan said.

At this point, Doan said it is unknown if students and staff would have to have a doctor’s note every time they have a symptom of COVID-19, whether or not it is related to the virus. Doan said the district will be utilizing the Illinois Department of Public Health’s initial guidelines until the amended ones are released.

Doan said the local health department also classified an outbreak in the district as two or more cases. He said it is likely a school would be shut down if a student or staff member tests positive, and the health department would handle contact tracing utilizing information from the school; he added that the health department would also determine how long the school or schools would be shut down.

Meanwhile, the committee also heard a brief update from each school’s principal on their plans for remote learning. Principals Jennifer Fox of the Early Learning Center and Pre-K program and Cheri Marten of South Side said the focus of their remote learning will be reading, writing and math.

Fox said should full remote learning take place, her staff could utilize recorded lessons as well as Zoom meetings to help students learn. Marten noted that curriculums between her school and Fox’s were similar for online learning.

Central Grade School Principal Amy Niebrugge said her online curriculum would be somewhat similar to Fox’s and Marten’s and noted that students must log in to their online classrooms to be counted for attendance.

Principals Charlie Schwerman of the junior high and Kurt Roberts of the high school said their curriculums are also similar and in accordance with what was created by district Curriculum Director Chelle Beck.

Roberts noted that the biggest remote learning challenge his staff could face is the blended remote and in-person learning as some teachers will be teaching in both formats.

The committee also learned that the district is continuing to offer training and webinars for teachers and staff for remote learning programs such as Google Classroom, Screencastify and more.

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

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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