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Preparations Like No Other
School Year 20 - 21 has arrived and Palestine CUSD#3 has just completed a week-long Teacher’s Institute to prepare for success against the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic once school starts Monday. Jessica Sisil, the newly appointed Superintendent, stated, “Our goal is to drive towards a fresh start to a new school year. We have done everything in our power to make sure our facilities are safe and secure for the new guidelines developed by ISBE and our staff is prepared and ready as well.” Teachers and faculty learned how to fulfill the Return to School Plan to keep the community safe. Creating the plan was a daunting task considering that information and guidance is continually changing. “The Palestine CUSD #3 Transition Team did an amazing job developing our district’s Return to School Plan. The amount of time, effort, and care that was invested by our staff in this return proves the strength of our district,” Superintendent Sisil stated.
The Return to School Plan has several remarkable features. Palestine CUSD#3 has a One-to-One Device plan that is up and ready to go Monday morning. All students through grades Pre-K through twelfth grade will receive a digital device enabling them to continue their education should school be shut down due to COVID-19. The plan and efforts are to stay open by keeping each member well and safe.
The district has received numerous grants, both state and federal, local donations, and volunteer work to make the return to school as safe as possible. Palestine High School Principal, Tangi Waldrop said “We have tried to anticipate any and all needs of our students and their families, but we know that we can’t possibly anticipate everything.” Both facilities in the district have installed water bottle filling stations, outdoor seating, sneeze guards, nano septic self-disinfection panels, and desk guards. Ms. Waldrop stated, “Keeping our students and staff physically and mentally healthy is a priority, and of course, we can’t wait to return to the task at hand - Educating!”
Palestine students were allowed to either return to school in-person or to continue remotely. Students who opted into remote learning will be taking all of their coursework through Apex Learning or Acellus with in-district facilitators dependent upon the student’s grade level. Returning to school for in-school learning has been by far the most popular choice with 92.8% of the families choosing an in-person education.
The custodial crew has been equipped with Victory electrostatic sprayers as well as N-95 masks and other PPE and cleaning options. The sprayers are able to disinfect large areas quickly including playground equipment and buses. All of the bus drivers will be utilized as well due to spacing guidelines.
Lunches will be served as usual with choice versus served. Students will be able to bring their own lunch as well if they choose. Seating for lunch has been spaced six feet apart and student seating has been expanded to accommodate.
Teachers and staff have also taken training on digital technology in case of a shutdown. Google Classrooms (grades 2-12) and Class Dojo (grades PreK-1) will be the platform used to continue the teachers’ curriculum remotely.
CUSD #3 Superintendent Jessica Sisil stated, “We want to thank our community, staff, board, parents, and donors for amazing fellowship and "followship" throughout this experience. We can do this and I truly believe that we are part of something bigger here in Palestine, IL. We are ready to prove that fact on August 24th!”