A Springfield School District 186 board of education member has asked the district to consider taking an extended pause or return to remote learning at the end of its holiday break as area COVID-19 cases climb to record levels and hospitals fill up with sick patients.
District 2 board member Micah Miller sent an email to Springfield School District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill and other board members Tuesday asking for the consideration.
Meanwhile, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health reported a record number of daily positive cases Tuesday along with two additional COVID-related deaths.
Miller said Tuesday he would like to see the issue addressed at the Jan. 4 school board meeting.
Students are set to return from break Jan. 10.
"We have to acknowledge what’s going on and put out there that this is a big deal and then what options do we have," Miller said. "I still hear people dismiss what’s going on as, well, it’s just more people testing. If the theory that we’re just more aware to the positive cases that were out there all along were true, then we wouldn’t see such a surge at our hospitals.
"I think the fact that we’re seeing hospital capacity reduced about as low as I’ve ever seen is the proof that this is an actual surge."
Miller isn’t opposed to some "creative thinking" about addressing the situation, including limiting the number of people going in and out schools.
Miller has at past meetings sounded the alarm about the rising numbers, but "I never felt like we didn’t have the tools to keep (in-person learning) safe," he said, a reference to Shield testing and test-to-stay.
According to the latest information on the District 186 dashboard, nearly 1,000 of its 12,900 students were in exclusion because of the virus.
Gill said it was the intention of the district to remain in-person "if at all possible.
"No one wants to see this spike in positive cases in our nation and in our community," Gill added, "but the message from (Illinois State Board of Education superintendent Carmen Ayala) and from the office of (Gov. JB Pritzker) is to prioritize in-person learning and implement all protocols for safety so that we can provide…all of the activities that are associated with school, including essential after school programming and learning boost programs."
Gill said the district is ventilating the school buildings over the holiday period and conducting sanitizing cleaning protocols, which will continue when students return.
The district, Gill added, is continuing "open lines of communication with our local health department, our board of education and our employee groups."
Mayor Jim Langfelder, reached Tuesday, said the city wouldn’t go as far as Chicago, which is implementing a mandatory proof of vaccination for bar and restaurant patrons beginning Jan. 3.
"Local restaurants have struggled (in this pandemic)," Langfelder said. "I think everyone knows what they’re up against. Everyone has their own beliefs and everyone has to take their personal responsibility. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted and wear your facemasks.
"I think the other side of the coin when you (mandate proof of vaccines), nobody is measuring the impact of businesses, some of which have closed. I think we’re in a position that we should be able to work through it and move forward in that direction. We know the precautionary measures. Let’s live up to it."
If a mandate to that effect comes from either the state or county health department, the question on the local side is enforcement, Langfelder said.
That was seen, the mayor added, when the city enforced the mask mandate, which has since been lifted.
The city could re-introduce a mask mandate ordinance, Langfelder said, "if we felt action was needed."
The two deaths reported Tuesday brought the total count for Sangamon residents to 309. Both persons, a male in his 80s and a female in her 70s, were unvaccinated, said Sangamon County spokesman Jeff Wilhite.
The 460 new cases reported Tuesday eclipsed the mark of 349 reported Thursday.
According to new figures from the county, 63 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Sangamon County officials learned Monday of at least four new COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.
District 186 is adding a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Springfield High School Commons from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 11. All shot types will be offered (first and second doses as well as boosters) for all eligible age groups, including children 5 and older.
A second dose clinic will be held at the Springfield High School Commons from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 1. Please Register at www.tinyurl.com/y7d4j7xp.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Springfield District 186 board member: Pause classes amid COVID surge
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December 28, 2021 at 07:44PM