The Peoria Public Schools Board has approved a Return to School plan for this fall after COVID-19 forced schools to move online in March.
Joshua Collins, director of transportation for Peoria Public Schools, has been working with a committee of educators, parents and health experts on the plan since late April. They’ve held more than 60 meetings, with seven subcommittees covering specific issues like wellness, instruction, and technology.
The amount of work is staggering, but as Collins points out, so is the challenge that the committee faces.
"This touched on every single aspect of what we do. I like to say to my staff, when we're working on things, let's not reinvent the wheel. We had to reinvent the wheel," Collins said.
The plan, as presented to the school board at Monday night’s meeting, uses what is referred to as a hybrid or “blended” model. Students that opt-in for in-person learning will attend school twice a week in rotating groups. Ideally, students will be in “bubbles,” using one specific classroom, hallway, and restroom throughout the day.
All staff will be wearing masks, and they’re recommended for students, but not required.
Board President Dan Adler said some hard tradeoffs had to be made.
"Maybe the second largest topic talked about in the community is getting back to that normalcy of what school looks like, and what that vision of exactly how we left it in March," said Adler. "The situation, while it has improved since we left, it's not like the risk is gone."
After 31/2 hours, the board voted 5-2 to approve the hybrid reopening plan. Board members Dan Walther and Chase Klaus voted no. Board members Martha Ross and Gregory Wilson voted yes, with the stipulation that the plan could be altered.
Adler emphasized the process is fluid and the plan is still evolving.
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