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District 95 discusses snow days vs. remote learning

By Curtis Winston
Contributing Writer
updated: 2/19/2021 9:50 AM

District 95 elementary schools were back to full-remote learning during this past week, as around 6 inches of snow blanketed much of the Carbondale area.

However, the week before, with single-digit temperatures and icy conditions, District 95 declared two snow days -- days that must be made up at the end of the school year -- and that prompted questions from the public, District 95 Superintendent Daniel Booth acknowledged at the regular Board of Education meeting on Feb. 10.

"People are asking that question because we were remote for so much of the year," Booth said.

"The thing you have to keep in mind is while we were remote at the beginning of the year, the teachers were coming into the building to work," Booth said. "When there are weather issues, they may not be able to come.

"And, they may not have good internet access, and some of them don't have internet access at all," Booth added.

Aside from slick winter roads and spotty network coverage, Booth said another barrier for teachers working from home is child care.

"It would be pretty tough to teach a class of 20 first-graders on a screen when there's a 2-year-old running around in the background," Booth said.

Booth said the district worked with Verizon to patch the internet connectivity issues teachers are having.

"They can work from home, if they have their materials and their child care," Booth said.

For his COVID-19 update, Booth said the return to in-person learning on Jan. 24 has gone well, and that COVID mitigation efforts are working.

Positivity rates in Jackson County are continuing to trend down, Booth said, adding that no teachers have tested COVID-positive and that no teachers or staff are under quarantine.

A handful of students are under quarantine, but none of the cases have been traced back to the schools, Booth said. A positive student case at CMS resulted in no contact.

Around 70 percent of teachers have been vaccinated, he added.

Meanwhile, Booth said he was working with other Illinois school superintendents to lobby for federally mandated assessment tests to be waived this year, due to COVID-19.

The tests must be taken in person by 95 percent of enrolled students. Booth said he wasn't comfortable requiring the students who have elected to go full-remote to come to school for the test.

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