PHS will return to as ‘normal as possible’

Planning for full-time in-person learning

Princeton High School is planning to return to as normal as possible for the 2021-22 school year in the wake of the global pandemic.

The PHS administration presented its “Return to Learn Plan” to the Board of Education Wednesday and released it to PHS families and students via email following the meeting.

“We believe it allows the best opportunity to transition back to full time and have as close as normal school year as possible,” PHS principal Andy Berlinski said.

Berlinski reminded the board this is all subject to change depending on IDPH, CDC and the Bureau County Health Department guidelines and mandates.

PHS will begin the school year with all students attending in-person full time for full school days, which has been mandated from the State of Illinois, from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Remote learning will only be offered for those students who are in required quarantines as determined by the Health Department.

Per the latest guidance from the CDC and IDPH, it is recommended, but not required that all individuals wear masks within the school building. Masks will not be required outside while on school grounds. However, masks will be required for all individuals (vaccinated and unvaccinated) while riding in a school bus or school vehicle, including driver’s ed cars, per CDC guidelines.

Depending on local health department guidance regarding increasing COVID-19 health metrics, Berlinski said, it may be necessary to mandate mask wearing for all individuals at PHS in the future and PHS will communicate any decision in advance.

“We’re going to follow exactly what the CDC says,” PHS superintendent Kirk Haring said. “When you walked in, you saw the old guidance from the CDC that said, ‘Vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks, all others should.’ Well, (Thursday), the sign will be, ‘Masks recommended for all.’ Recommended, not required.”

Haring said the letter from PHS’ insurances clearly states, “As long as we’re following the CDC and IDPH guidelines, we will be covered.”

Haring said PHS is excited to get everybody back in the building.

“The fact that we’re going to be back in person, all day long, and our kids are to be able to interact with our teachers, in person, it’s just a wonderful thing. And I know everyone is looking forward to that,” he said.

The PHS plan mirrors pretty closely to that of PES, Haring said.

Building entry will begin at 7:30 a.m. for students. Door #3 (the flagpole door) will again be the only entry door in use. Berlinski said this will enhance school security.

Berlinski said students will have access to lockers, locker rooms and water fountains, all of which were unavailable during the past school year.

A minimum social distancing space of three feet will be maintained whenever possible, a distance cut in half from the six-foot minimum guidelines last year.

The PHS custodial staff will continue to sanitize and clean public/used spaces on a daily basis using a variety of antibacterial and antiviral products, Berlinski said.

Principal’s report

In his report, Berlinski stated the following days will be held for registration: sophomores, juniors and seniors will be Wednesday Aug. 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and new student Year 1 day will be Tuesday, Aug. 10, run by the Year 1 mentors.

The new teacher orientation will be Thursday, Aug. 12.

There will be a teacher institute day on Tuesday, Aug. 17 to start the new year with the first day for students on Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Berlinski said PHS will welcome back a foreign exchange student from Germany, Nele Helmer, who will reside with the Josh and Jamie Taylor family, if approved. Berlinski said PHS is looking forward to having a foreign exchange student back in school.

Kevin Hieronymus

Kevin Hieronymus

Kevin has been sports editor of the BCR since 1986 and previously was sports editor of the St. Louis Daily News, Tazewell News and ISU Daily Vidette. He is a 2021 inductee into the IBCA Hall of Fame as a media member and was awarded as 2021 IPA Best Sports Section and Best Sports Column