BRADLEY — Bradley Elementary School District 61 is pushing the start of the school year back two weeks to Sept. 8 in light of a positive COVID-19 case from a staff member.
In an emergency meeting Wednesday, the Bradley Elementary School Board gave the OK to administration to delay the start of the school year.
The board also gave input for administration to continue with the in-person blended learning model as planned but acknowledged that switching to remote-only at some point is a real possibility.
“We would really like to see the kids in person,” Superintendent Scott Goselin said. “We miss the kids. I know they miss being here with their teachers and their classmates, so we are still going to do whatever we can to make that happen.”
Parent orientations were scheduled for Wednesday through Friday this week, and the first day of school was set for Monday, Aug. 24.
Goselin said that although only one district staff member is currently confirmed to be COVID-19 positive, that person has been in close contact with at least five or six other staff members.
Those individuals will be required to follow quarantine protocols as well, so staffing would be an issue for that particular school if classes resumed Aug. 24 as planned, Goselin said.
Waiting until after Labor Day to start school will give close-contact individuals time to quarantine and return to work if they are symptom-free.
Goselin also tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks ago but has recovered.
He said he presented very mild symptoms and then quarantined and worked from home for 10 days after receiving positive test results.
Parent orientations will be rescheduled, and the three remote learning planning days that would have happened this week will be moved to Sept. 2-4.
The board is set to vote on a revised calendar at a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 in the Bradley West Cafeteria. The board will also reevaluate whether or not to switch to fully remote learning at that time.
The district’s back-to-school plan has students attending school for four hours per day and completing an hour of remote instruction after school.
About 350 students so far have opted to do completely remote learning, amounting to about 27 percent of the district.
Board members discussed difficulties that the CDC’s current guidelines present for schools.
For example, students have to be sent home and quarantined for 10 days upon showing any COVID-19 symptoms, from a fever or a cough to a runny nose.
They can only return to school with a negative COVID-19 test or a note from a doctor with an alternate diagnosis.
District Nurse Jennifer Vaughn said that if a student has even one symptom they will have to be placed in the isolation area of the school and sent home because of how fast the virus can spread.
“Even if I have a kid that I know has asthma, I’ve known them for years, I know they have an asthma problem, they still have to go home because it’s not worth the chance of spreading [COVID-19] to the other kids and the staff members,” she said. “So, I send that kid home; they have to isolate for 10 days because they are assumed to have it.”
Schools will also have to determine who was in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with the student or staff member who showed symptoms and send those individuals home as well. Additionally, if a student is sent home because they showed COVID-19 symptoms, their siblings or others who live in their household have to be sent home as well.
“We may have to shut down a whole grade level at a time if we feel like we can’t contact trace and it could be a lot of kids,” Goselin said. “We are dealt a hand that’s going to be very challenging for us, but we’re ready and prepared.”
The first few weeks of school will be used to orient students to online learning platforms and distribute electronic devices in the event the district has to switch to fully remote learning in the future.
Goselin said that the district will continue to monitor information from health department officials, including COVID-19 trends in the area and possible changes in the recommended guidance for schools.
He said it’s possible and likely that the situation will change by Labor Day.
“If we see kids for one day, two days, three days or five days, that’s something,” he said. “That’s great for our kids and our staff to get face-to-face interaction, maybe meet the teacher for the first time, those types of things.”