Although members of the administration and education council of Springfield School District 186 continue to monitor COVID-19 local numbers in preparation for the return from winter break on january 10, at least one school board member would like to see student testing better.

Other schools in the region are resuming classes this week after a longer break for District 186 was already scheduled. District offices reopen on Tuesday and there is a continuing education day for teachers on Friday.

The school board meets Tuesday and will most likely hear Superintendent Jennifer Gill planning an in-person return or alternate plans if a return is delayed.

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Micah Miller Sub-District 2 School Board Representative suggested last week that a break or delay was at least discussed in light of aone day record number of COVID-19 cases reported by the Sangamon County public health department on Tuesday and increased hospitalizations. New single-day record of reported cases again set Thusday.

A letter from Gill to teachers highlighted the Illinois State Board of Education has a provision in the school code for an “adaptive break”, but “it’s not something that we as a school district or school board can decide or vote on independently.”

Buffy Lael-Loup District 5 said she didn’t want the district going into an “adaptive break,” but hoped student testing might ramp up.

The district’s “shield test,” a saliva-based test developed by the University of Illinois, is voluntary, Lael-Wolf said.

“If parents determine that they don’t want their child tested every week at their school, then they don’t test,” she said. “The other thing is if a student goes to get tested and then refuses – if the parent signs, but the child refuses to do it – they will not take the test.

“We need as many people as possible to test so that we know if we have any issues, we can deal with them quickly and try to limit the spread, if that is a possibility.”

In cases where the parents have consented to their child being tested and the child refuses, “I would really like the parents to have a conversation with their child, so that we can make it happen,” added Lael-Wolf .

Chicago Public School Leaders have asked students to test for COVID-19 before returning home from winter vacation, and in some cases the district has distributed test kits to students. Students and staff at public schools in Washington, DC were required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to school on Wednesday.

Lael-Wolf, clinical computer scientist in Springfield Health system of hospital sisters, acknowledged that the number of cases is on the rise locally as more people have been tested.

“It gives you a much better picture of the contagion in your area,” said Lael-Wolf, “and for us as a school district or a school it gives us a much better picture of, oh my gosh, this Sixth grade class is a problem, we’re going to have to close that classroom or whatever option is available to us.

“We need to cast a bigger net (in terms of testing), so that we can catch as many fish as possible. We see it unfolding. Our hospitalizations increase and deaths follow. This is exactly how it all happens.”

Lael-Wolf hopes people are more aware of the gravity of the situation in light of a letter which has been issued by the HSHS Health System, Memorial Health, Springfield Clinic and Southern Illinois University of Medicine.

“I would say the community needs to pay attention to what the Big Four are saying,” she said. “We have relied on HSHS, Memorial, Springfield Clinic, and SIU Medicine for years. They are beloved entities in our community. There is no reason we shouldn’t be relying on and believing them now.”

Superintendent Jennifer Gill, left, proposes District 186's back-to-learning plan that will include universal masking at a Springfield District 186 Education Council meeting with Council Chairman Anthony Mares, right , at District 186 headquarters in Springfield, Ill., on Monday, August 2, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Regarding Tuesday’s discussion, Lael-Wolf said she anticipates Gill will address a plan in case the students cannot return in person on January 10. Students, she said, don’t have laptops at home, so schools should figure something out.

“Neither of us want to do it, but there would be a lot of logistics involved,” said Lael-Wolf. “It’s not impossible, but there would definitely have to be some hurdles. People would need wireless access points. They would need their devices. We will need to make sure what our bargaining units feel about this. and how it works from their perspective. “

Barring a disaster declaration from Governor JB Pritzker or ISBE Superintendent Carmen Ayala, District 186 could delay the start of in-person learning if it was in consultation with the County Health Department. Sangamon, Gill said in the letter.

“It is our intention to stay in person whenever possible,” noted Gill.

President of the Anthony Mares school board said a perk for District 186 is that it doesn’t return until Jan.10.

“I’m sure (Superintendent Gill) and her administration will continue to monitor the information,” Mares said. “She has a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in other neighborhoods (around Springfield) because they’re going to open up (earlier).

Superintendent Ayala reiterated that children learn best by staying in school. (US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona), his recommendation, despite what is happening, is that children should still be in school.

“The board, the administration and the superintendent are responsible for doing (the in-person learning) in the safest and healthiest way possible and I don’t see how we’re going to change that.”

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected],