1. Are schools remote because of the state mitigations?
a. No. Unlike last spring, the state has not implemented mandatory school closings. What they have done is created guidance regarding remote and in-person learning.
b. Although schools are not required by law or executive order to follow the guidance from the CDC and IDPH, failure to follow health guidelines issued by state and federal health agencies does open any school to issues with liability and legal action.
c. Furthermore, schools are expected to follow the guidelines and monitor local COVID metrics to avoid widespread mandatory closures.
d. These guidelines are available at:
2. What resources are used to determine remote vs. in-person learning?
a. As a District, we look at regional, state and county metrics. The following are guidelines established by IDPH regarding when schools should transition from in-person to remote. Transitioning from in-person to remote for a period of time is being called an “adaptive pause” by the Illinois State Board of Education. https://www.isbe.net/Documents/IDPH-Adaptive-Pause-Metrics.pdf
b. Currently, Macoupin County is considered to be in a substantial community transmission stage/level by IDPH.
c. During periods of “substantial community transmission”, it is recommended that schools transition into remote learning. It does not happen the moment a community reaches that level but if that level is sustained for multiple weeks.
d. It is also recommended that schools remain remote until the county transitions to moderate community transition levels. As a district, we monitor and review those guidelines but we also look specifically at the communities served by the district.
e. Over the last several weeks, the county has seen an increase of 1,403 more positives.
f. Not only is Macoupin County experiencing substantial community transmission rates, but the communities our district serves have high numbers of people testing positive.
g. In addition, schools are being asked to monitor health metrics all the time. This includes weekly meetings with the local health department. We monitor the number of local and regional hospital beds and ICU beds available. We also monitor the specific cases tied to the Gillespie CUSD #7 communities.
h. Higher positive cases in our communities greatly impact the number of staff and students that test positive and/or quarantine. This requires speaking with multiple health professionals on a regular basis.
i. When the community numbers increase, many staff are also impacted. Too many staff absences mean we cannot run buses, serve food, teach classes, or run our offices. Large numbers of quarantine and positive staff members will also cause the district to transition or remain remote even if countywide numbers are not high.
3. Why not determine remote learning a week at a time?
a. Typically, we would look at these remote times for a week or 10 days at a time. We would implement remote learning due to a concern regarding a number of students or staff testing positive. Those 7 to 10 days would provide the district a chance to stop any spread and/or exposures.
b. Our community moved (we were notified November 19th) to the “substantial community transmission” category. That designation placed schools in our area under different IDPH guidelines (see previously shared IDPH document for details).
c. Due to the county’s “substantial community transmission” stage, all schools in the county have extended remote or transitioned to remote learning for a few more weeks.
d. Some schools have extended it into the middle of January. We are hopeful numbers will continue to decrease in our community and the county will transition in the next few weeks to the moderate community transition stage.
f. Knowing how significant our county numbers are and that multiple weeks of significantly better numbers are required to move the county to a moderate community transmission stage, making a week to week announcement seemed misleading. The District did not want to lead parents and students to believe the extension was only for a week or two knowing the reality of the data and IDPH guidance. We are hopeful that our community will transition to the moderate level before Christmas and that it will remain at that level or lower for a January 11, 2021 in-person start to the second semester.
4. What makes you think the metrics will be better on January 11, 2021?
a. We have no idea what the metrics will look like in January. Since we have gone remote, our community’s numbers have been better and trending in a more positive direction. We know the medical community is preparing and predicting outbreaks due to Thanksgiving and all the other holidays over the next weeks. We will have to wait and see if those predictions come true or if the public followed the warnings, acted cautiously, and limited exposure.
b. The next few weeks will determine if January 11, 2021 is possible. Everyone wants to be back in session on January 11th. When we can resume in person instruction, we plan to take it one day at a time in hopes of making it to the end of the school year without another “adaptive pause”. We can only hope that our community will get healthy and remain healthy to allow the schools to safely return to in-person learning.
5. How impacted by the positives and quarantines can the school be if students are not in session?
a. The fact is that over the last few weeks, we have had a number of staff and students test positive and/or be exposed to a positive. The current number of quarantines and exposures would have made this week difficult to have in-person learning even if the community numbers were not high.
b. The district has been extremely fortunate that those testing positive or quarantined have recovered. We continue to wish all those impacted a speedy recovery.
6. If schools are not the “Super Spreaders”, then, why not be in session regardless of the level of community infection?
a. Even if IDPH guidance on remote vs. in-person learning did not create liability and legal issues for schools, the current community infection levels would and are impacting a school/district’s ability to have enough staff on site to feed, bus, teach, etc. for in-person learning.
b. Schools are safe and have protocols in place to keep students and staff physically separated as much as possible, but we are not immune to the impact that high infection rates create.
c. We are able to put safeguards in place, but we cannot control outside factors/exposures. Our ability to stay in-person is impacted by community infection and spread. We cannot function in-person if staff are quarantined.
d. Even if a classroom outbreak or spread at school was not a concern, the number of quarantines would dramatically increase being in-session. Schools may not be the super spreaders everyone thought we would be, but we are impacted more directly by positives than other entities.
i. The District is not aware of any cases of COVID-19 spreading at school/work in our district. With that being said, classrooms with multiple students/staff testing positive are defined as an outbreak and regardless of the level of contact all staff and students in the class are then quarantined. Even if the multiple positives are not from a class exposure but traced to outside sources, the entire class is quarantined for 14 days.
e. Spreading the virus at school is a concern and something we are working constantly to prevent, but quarantines have had an even larger impact on our ability to stay functioning in-person and result in more families impacted, more cases the health department monitors, and more tests performed due to possible exposures. This taxes our health professionals and medical institutions.
7. Do schools know how hard remote learning is for students and families?
a. YES. We know how difficult learning remotely is but more importantly, we understand the emotional toll this has on everyone. It is difficult for students, families and staff. We want to be in person. No one began teaching or working in this district to work alone and only see adults. We understand that school is more than academics. The district believes that academics is one of many pieces that school provides to ensure our students grow and become productive positive adults. Those pieces take place on our campuses through daily activities and interactions. We believe being in school is important.
b. We are all also in agreement that teaching/working with your own children (even for a teacher) is difficult and challenging. So, we feel that pain as well and understand how frustrating it can be for everyone. If you are frustrated, reach out to us. Let us help. You are not alone. It is also why we are working on ways to bring students on-site in very small limited groups. We know that some may need more direct help. Contact building administrators and/or teachers if you need to set up tutoring or individualized help for your child.
c. Finally, we understand the financial burden that having your child at home or with childcare can be for families. It is why being in-person is so important to us.
i. We appreciate your struggles. They do not go unnoticed or unidentified. We have worked all year long to limit the need for childcare outside of what would be a typical year/schedule.
ii. Returning to in-person is our goal and will remain our goal
8. When do I need to certify if my child will be remote or in-person on January 11,2021?
a. We are asking everyone to recertify whether your child will be remote for the 3rdquarter or in-person.
b. This must be completed for every child not just each family.
1. Will Gillespie CUSD #7 provide meals during remote learning?
a. Yes. Gillespie CUSD #7 is providing meals for pick-up and delivery Mondays through Friday. Pick up is from 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. behind the High School in the bus lane. You will receive breakfast and lunch for each day.
2. Are the meals just sandwiches?
a. No. The meals consist of various items.
3. Are the meals free? And who is eligible for the meals?
a. All meals are free to all children ages 3-18. These may be students that attend Gillespie CUSD #7 or other children ages 3-18. Gillespie CUSD #7 is reimbursed through the USDA. Because people may be displaced during this time due to quarantine or for child care, the USDA recognizes that schools may provide meals for children ages 3-18 that are not enrolled.
4. Can I buy an adult meal?
a. At this time, we are not serving adults. If that changes, we will make our families aware.
5. How do I sign up for the meals on Monday and Thursdays for the week?
a. We ask that people sign up only so we know how many meals to make. You can call the bus garage (Gary Niehaus) and get registered.
b. CUSD #7 Bus Garage: 217-839-2604
6. Who can pick up meals?
a. Anyone can pick up the meals. It does not need to be the parent or guardian of the child as long as we know who you are picking up the meal for. Students can also pick up their own meals.
1) What should I do if my child needs more help?
a. Contact your child’s teacher(s) and/or the office to develop a plan for your child to receive individualized instruction either remotely or on site.
2) Why are school buses and vans running?
a) Although we are remote, our campuses are not closed. Gillespie CUSD #7 is working to establish times and locations that students can come in for small periods of time in small groups or on an individual basis to help with academic concerns, emotional needs and therapies.
b) Meals are being delivered.
c) In addition, we are delivering items and needed materials to families. We understand that transportation can be an issue for some families and we do not want the inability to get meals, materials or support to be a barrier for our students’ success.
3) What academic supports are available to my child?
a) K-8: Students identified for academic support continue to receive interventions with teachers or instructional aides either remotely or on site. Counselors are also available to assist students. (See Counseling/Emotional Supports below).
b) 9-12: Students needing additional support are strongly encouraged to come in for needed assistance. Counselors are also available to assist students. (See Counseling/Emotional Supports below).
c) If you feel your child needs additional academic supports, please reach out to their teachers or administrators:
i) Bengil Elementary School- Angela Sandretto, Principal 839-4828
ii) Gillespie Middle School- Tara Cooper, Principal 839-2116
iii) Gillespie High School- Jill Rosentreter, Principal 839-2114
4) How are grades being issued?
a) As has been conveyed throughout the year, grading for all students in-person and remote are traditional and follow student handbooks and district policy. Last spring, grading changed when schools went to remote learning. This year, ISBE has been clear that grading will not be changed from district/school policies.
b) Students in all grades can fail classes and be held back for not completing assignments or mastering concepts.
c) Absences can also impact grades.
5) What if my older child needs help but has to watch younger children/siblings?
a) As previously stated, school buildings are open and staff can be reached both in-person and remotely. We understand that many of our older students are in charge of younger children/siblings.
6) Can my child come into the school for some assistance?
a) As stated, we are encouraging families to reach out to the schools if your child needs academic or emotional support.
b) In order to remain safe, we need to have people check in to the offices.
c) We need to limit the number of students and staff in locations and remain socially distant. Therefore, scheduling with the teachers and offices is important.
d) Again, as long as we can limit the numbers and remain safe, we will continue to leave our buildings open to help students and families.
7) My child is sick and can’t participate in class. What should I do?
a) Please contact the office of the school your child or children attend to let them know.
b) You will need to communicate with the school nurse so the illness/symptoms can be tracked.
c) Students with Covid symptoms may not come on site for instruction, assessments, tutoring, meals, etc. until a physician’s note is provided to the School Nurse indicating the illness is not Covid-related, a negative Covid test is provided to the School Nurse, or 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms. In all cases, the student must be symptom free without medication for 24 hours before returning on site to school.
1. What resources are available in the school and outside of school if I think my child is depressed or struggling to cope with the feeling of disconnect?
a. Parents are encouraged to reach out to the school counselors and social worker in their child’s building.
b. Internal and external counseling services are available and information can begiven upon request. Other resources outside of counseling can also be discussed.
c. As resources are made available, we will send out the information through the webpage, social media and Skyward.
2. When are counselors and social workers available for me or my child to speak with about concerns?
a. School Counselors at BenGil, GMS, and GHS are available by phone, email, in person or via Teams from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Mrs. McNicholas, the school social worker, is also available by phone, email, Teams or in person with an appointment.
Mrs. Strole at GHS: email@example.com
Mrs. Strole at GMS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs. Rull at BengGil: Brull@cusd7.org
Mr. McNicholas at all buildings: Kmcnicholas@cusd7.org
3. Are there groups or activities that are going on now with the school or other groups to help my child feel connected?
a. We understand that it is important for our students to feel connected to each other and to the school.
b. Students or parents wanting their child to volunteer for activities are encouraged to reach out to the building counselors and social worker. The school is often approached by outside groups (during this time of year) and we would gladly connect these groups to families wanting to volunteer.
4. I have a high school student and I am not sure what tests, scholarships, financial aid, etc. they should be signing up for or doing now.
a. All high school students and parents/guardians are encouraged to reach out to Mrs. Strole with specific questions or concerns.
b. Freshmen: Students should be focused on finishing the semester strong and passing their classes. Statewide testing will take place during the Spring semester.
c. Sophomores: Students should be focused on finishing the semester strong and passing their classes. Statewide testing will take place during the Spring semester.
d. Juniors: Students should be focused on finishing the semester strong and passing their classes. Statewide testing, including the SAT, will take place during the Spring semester. Practice tests and study materials for the SAT are available through collegeboard.org and Khan Academy. Students who participated in the PSAT in October will be receiving their individual score reports in the next few weeks.
e. Seniors: Students should be focused on finishing the semester strong and passing their classes. Don’t jeopardize graduation because of failing grades!
1. If we are remote learning, am I still responsible for getting required physicals, immunization and other documentation?
a. Yes, all students are required to have all health information up to date regardless of the school being remote. When we are back to in-person learning, those students who do not have their health information up to date will not be allowed to attend. If you are unsure if this applies to you, please call your child’s school nurse and ask what you need to be in compliance. The nurses highly suggest you start thinking about next year and make your appointments now for physicals and immunizations.