Physical distancing eliminated as part of St. Charles School District’s updated COVID-19 mitigation plan

District will also stop SHIELD testing

St. Charles School District 303 students might notice a few changes in COVID-19 protocols when they return to school this month.

Students no longer will be spread apart 6 feet in their classes or at lunch. Physical distancing is no longer required for schools by the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Board members unanimously approved an updated COVID-19 mitigation plan during a special board meeting July 25.

“Basically the COVID mitigation plan is following the CDC recommended guidance,” Marci Conlin, the district’s assistant superintendent for leadership and human resources, told board members. “So much like how we were in the spring, when we went to recommended masking, recommended testing and recommended vaccination, we will be falling back to those protocols and those mitigations. However, there are a few things that will be eased up a little this year compared to what we were doing in the spring.”

That includes allowing volunteers to once again help out at the district’s schools.

“We would like to have volunteers back helping in our schools and they will also follow the recommended guidance from the CDC,” Conlin said.

There are certain protocols that volunteers must follow if they test positive for COVID-19. Volunteers must not exhibit symptoms or be in schools on days 0-5 after a positive COVID-19 test result.

A well-fitting mask is recommended for parents/families returning to volunteer in schools on days 6-10.

“We want to stress that for students, staff and parents and volunteers, that if you are sick, please stay home and take care of whatever symptoms that you have and when you are symptom-free, please return,” Conlin said.

The rest of the district’s COVID-19 protocols will remain the same for the most part, she said. As part of the plan, best practices for cleaning facilities and buses will continue to be implemented and the district will continue to use upgraded air filters where possible in air handling units.

Students and staff also are encouraged to wash their hands on a regular basis. Each building in the district offers access to touchless hand washing stations, bottle filling stations and hand sanitizer.

The new school year starts Aug. 10.

School board member Ed McNally voiced his support for the plan.

“I appreciate the fact that we’re kind of returning to some normalcy here and that we’re allowing people to use conscience and judgment, which is what we’ve typically used for people managing their family’s health,” McNally said.

School board member Matthew Kuschert agreed.

“It seems like COVID is here to stay for the foreseeable future and so I know that a lot of work went into this and some thoughtful approach to try and make sure we can create as great of a learning environment as we can for the students,” he said. “So I, too, am encouraged to see that we’re moving in the right direction to try and bring back a normal educational environment.”

School board members also approved a plan by the district not to begin the school year with SHIELD testing. District 303 previously had been contracting with the University of Illinois SHIELD to conduct weekly screening tests. The test is a PCR saliva test.

“We really feel like it’s important that piece be transferred back to our families and to our community and not within our schools,” Superintendent Paul Gordon said.