District 91's new superintendent will be announced during a Zoom meeting on Jan. 30. | File photo

It sounds like something out of a dystopian novel.

Students line up outside school, six feet apart, masks required. Upon entry, their temperature is scanned using a thermal (no-contact) thermometer. If their body temperature is under the threshold of 100.4, they’re allowed entry, where they can proceed to their classroom or locker; locker usage is staggered, though, to prevent congregation in the hallways.

Elementary students sit at their six-feet spaced desks all day. Instructors rotate to teach different subjects.

The children in fifth grade and below eat lunch at their desks. Middle school students are divided into two groups. Half eat in the cafeteria; the other half eats outside under shade tents, weather permitting. When the weather’s bad, they eat in a “satellite location” instead.

 Students are allowed to use the bathroom, but only the specific one assigned to their class, and individual restroom usage is tracked and logged.

Regular handwashing is scheduled into the day.

If weather permits, recess will be held outside. But nobody can use the playground equipment, and social distancing will be required.

Music class may be held but won’t include singing or playing any blown instrument. Not indoors, at least. Sometimes, maybe, outdoor music instruction may occur, with students at least 10 feet apart and singing through masks.

It’s a grim picture, but it’s the reality of COVID-19 that schools and families face. And these are just some of the guidelines in place for reopening District 91 schools in the fall, guidelines released by the district on July 6 and developed using guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

In-person instruction will be included “to the greatest extent possible and with numerous health and safety protocols in place,” said Supt. Lou Cavallo in the July 6 communication to families. The plan, however, only applies if the region is still in Phase Four of the Restore Illinois Plan in late August.

Full-day school for students will begin on Aug. 25. Registration, which will be online, will begin Aug. 3. Instructions will be sent to parents mid-July and posted on the school website at fpsd91.org.

A few highlights of the plan, which can be read in its entirety on the website, are:

  • Masks must be worn by all people entering any D91 buildings. This includes students and staff.
  • Student and staff temperatures using a thermal thermometer will be taken before entering building. Anyone with a fever of 100.4 or higher will be denied entry and sent home.
  • Parents or guardians will be required to complete a symptom checklist for each child attending D91 schools. This will be done twice a week on Monday and Wednesday. Staff will be required to complete a symptom checklist daily.
  • Desks will be spaced six feet apart. Elementary school children will remain in the same room, and teachers will move from class to class to teach different subjects to different groups of students, if necessary. Middle school students will remain in the same classroom for core subjects, but will go to different rooms for special classes, such as art.
  • Bus transportation will not be provided except for special education students requiring transportation as identified in their IEP
  • Strict cleaning and disinfection protocols will be followed.
  • No extracurricular activities or field trips will be permitted until the region reaches Phase Five of the Restore Illinois plan.
  • Preschool will be limited to those that are currently enrolled; no new students will be accepted until Phase V is reached in the region.

To address potential learning loss of students due to remote learning, A Fastbridge Assessment will be administered early in the school year “to identify learning loss and placement into tiers for intervention and remediation.” According to the plan, “all specialists and coaches will provide direct instruction to students for specific skill needs as identified by assessments.”

“School will be very different than in years past,” said Cavallo in the email to families. Later, he addressed the differences and challenges they present. “We recognize that this upcoming school year will be a challenge for everyone but we are confident that if we all work together and remain positive, we will get through this challenge just as we did with remote learning.”

On Thursday, July 9, at the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting, Cavallo will be going over the plan and providing an opportunity for the community to ask questions. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Forest Park Middle School Cafetorium, where seats will be placed six feet apart and masks required for entry.

The meeting will also be broadcast via Zoom for remote participation. The Zoom link and a link to the full set of guidelines can be found on the D91 website at www.fpsd91.org/.

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