As Creve Coeur School District 76 held registration at Parkview Middle School this week, a pressing concern was the safety of in-person class attendance.
District 76 Superintendent Steve Johnson said that Creve Coeur schools will be provided with masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Sanitizing stations will be available in each classroom, and LaSalle Elementary School, Parkview Middle School and all district school buses will be equipped with ionized pumps for spraying disinfectant.
"I believe this pandemic is definitely a unique time for us all," said Johnson. "What we’re trying to do as a school district is provide an opportunity for students to continue their education in a manner that will follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) requirements and guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Tazewell County Health Department in regards to keeping our students, staff and parents safe."
Lisa Elston of Creve Coeur, who was registering her daughters Emily, 8, and Amira, 12, for the school year Wednesday, mostly approves of the district’s plan. The district will divide the student body into different groups to cut down on classroom crowding. She also acknowledged, however, that social distancing will create a scheduling conflict at home.
"(The district is) trying to get siblings together in the same time slots," she said. "But I have one child (Emily) who has special needs, so she’s going to go to different (classes) than Amira. It’s going to take some getting used to because I’ll be taking them (to school) at different times."
With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise in some areas, Elston said she is apprehensive about sending children back to classrooms. While she is confident that District 76 is following sanitation and social distancing protocols, she’s concerned that the number of Creve Coeur schoolchildren could make social distancing a challenge.
"I’m wondering how everything’s going to play out, because there are a lot of kids to work around," she said. "It might be difficult, but delivering the meals to classrooms would be safer than congregating all the kids in a lunchroom."
A common concern among District 76 parents seems to be ensuring their children will wear the personal protective equipment Creve Coeur schools will provide.
Keyleith Cerda of Creve Coeur hopes that her 5-year-old daughter, Pasleigh, will have fun, learn and socialize during her kindergarten year at LaSalle. She thinks that getting children to follow sanitation and social distancing protocols may prove difficult.
"Hopefully there will be frequent hand washing," she said. "My biggest concern is probably the mask wearing in the heat. The little ones will be playing with their masks."
Erica Krieg of Creve Coeur agreed that uncomfortable face masks, worn for hours at a time, could create problems. Her daughter Brylee, 8, a third-grade student at LaSalle, dislikes wearing a mask and constantly fidgets with it, she added.
"The district is trying very hard to make sure all protocols are followed so there are no issues or problems at school, and they’re doing a good job at it," said Krieg. "I’m hoping (teachers and staff) will monitor (students) to make sure everybody is taking precautions and keeping their masks on."
Rosemary McGinnis, who registered her daughter Katlynn, 10, for fifth grade at Parkview, and her son, David, 4, for pre-kindergarten at LaSalle, believes that District 76 is doing its best to keep COVID-19 out of Creve Coeur’s classrooms with the resources at its disposal. In the end, though, she is not confident that sanitation and social distancing measures will be enough.
"There are too many children in Creve Coeur," McGinnis said. "They can’t just have A-B classes and have e-learning optional. They must do e-learning. I would like to see half of the kids do e-learning half of the year, while the other half split days like they’re doing now."
Regarding what she expects for the coming school year, McGinnis’ answer was a simple one. It was also likely an expectation that has been repeated in other school districts throughout the United States.
"I expect (District 76) to keep our children safe," she said.