By Steve Robinson | September 30, 2020 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – School buses, by the time they arrive at the school they are assigned to drop students off at, are generally packed with youngsters and packed again when it’s time for the students to return home at the end of the day. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board members heard there will be a set number of students on each bus in an effort to reduce potentially spreading the disease.

Officials from Cincinnati-based First Student Bus Co. informed Board members at a session held Tuesday, Sept. 29 that among the precautions the transportation provider is taking to keep students safe includes students boarding buses from the rear door and exiting from the front door. Although most full-size buses have seating for 52 students, First Student is reducing that number of students allowed to 44 per bus. The goal of this change is to social distance students as much as possible. Officials for the busing provider told Board members buses will be cleaned after each run, as well as each evening.

District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle provided Board members and the socially-distancing audience members a thorough overview of the return to in-person learning plan. In her explanation, she included how the district came up with the plan, and the metrics being used to make decisions, as well as why the district currently plans to begin using a hybrid plan. She also shared plans for cleaning, social distancing, and air quality improvements.

While that plan is in the works on the belief all of the district’s over 13,000 students would be returning to classroom learning, current numbers show approximately 21 percent of students have selected to be fully remote.

Board members also approved the budget for the district for the 2020 – 2021 school year, including a $12.5 million structural deficit in the Education Fund. The budget will likely include items related to COVID. Prior to the vote, a public hearing was held at which one community member asked what cost-saving measures have been taken by the district. Board members shared that Unit 5 can’t continue to borrow to make its budget, explaining it’s not a sustainable plan, and that seeking out another source of revenue will be a necessity.

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