BRADLEY, Ill. (CBS) — As many students prepare to log on to get back to school at home, there are still some districts that will be starting the traditional way.
But as CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported Tuesday night, it is not clear how long those districts will keep their doors open.
It is the start of a new year at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School.
“For first time in my 17 years as a superintendent, I don’t know what the first day’s going to look and feel like,” said Scott Wakeley, superintendent of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community Schools.
Wakeley said signs informing students to cover their faces will greet them first.
“I never thought the most important thing we have isn’t the technology, it’s these very thin masks that we have to wear that’s going to keep us all safe,” Wakeley said.
Then, security guards will check temperatures of everyone entering the building.
“And I’m not going to say that this is going to be without its challenges,” Wakeley said.
Bradley-Bourbonnais expects to welcome 500 freshmen to walk the halls on Wednesday morning. Then on alternating days, the rest of the student body will return.
“We usually have 2,000 kids, which makes the hallways very crowded,” Wakeley said. “We’ll probably have only 800 students at any one time.”
Besides shifting the crowds to certain sides of the hallways, the district believes it has taken extra precautions. The school’s cafeteria will be used for larger classroom space.
In regular rooms, plastic dividers surround each teacher’s desk.
“I’ll say as an administrator and for our staff, it’s a challenge,” Wakeley said, “and it’s something that we can say for our community, we’re willing to give it a try.”
It is a big attempt, considering other districts are now opting for full remote learning. Many made a last-minute shift, especially after tighter restrictions imposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“Our schools were not built for a pandemic,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association.
Under the new state guidelines, if a student or staff have a sore throat, fever, or other symptoms similar to COVID-19, the district must treat it as a positive case.
That prompted many districts to hold off on entering the buildings – but not Bradley-Bourbonnais.
“We’re willing to give it a try and we’ll see how it goes,” Wakeley said. “If we think at any time that this is not going to be a safe environment for the long term, then we have to be able to pivot.”