Restarting school for 575 students this fall requires more than stocking enough face masks and thermometers for checking on fevers.

Last week, Dieterich Unit 30 School Board, administrators and teachers nailed down many details for offering both in-person and remote learning as safe as possible during the threat of coronavirus this fall. Dieterich schools start the new school year on August 18. Face masks will be in use by students and school staff and there will be temperature checks, but there is much more to the reopening plan for Dieterich schools.

At the July 27 special meeting, board members came to agreement after discussions and recommendations from some teachers at the meeting on the following:

The school day schedule will run from 8:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days per week. This will allow for tutoring of students from 2 to 3:40 p.m. and instruction for remote learning for families choosing that option. The after-school program will run from 2 to 6 p.m.

The school district will make sure all students in the junior-senior high school will have Chromebooks distributed during the first week of school. Those devices can be taken home. There will also be Chromebooks distributed to remote learning students. Elementary School Chromebooks will be used by younger students but remain at the school building.

Clam shell containers for prepackaged hot or cold meals will be used for COVID-19 safety during lunch and breakfast periods and social distancing will be practiced in the cafeteria. The school will also utilize the Liberty Memorial Park pavilion and additional outdoor and the gym and lobby areas for lunch purposes, depending on weather conditions. Lunch pickups will be offered to remote learning students as well.

Screening of students and school employees, as well as visitors to schools, will be offered for temperature checks and other symptoms of the virus. But the school district is recommending parents help with pre-certification of children’s health before sending them to a school bus stop or entering the school building. School staff and bus drivers will be doing the temperature checks.

Some board members expressed concern about shortened class periods when it is important to get the students caught up after in-school classes were canceled last fall due to the virus outbreak across Illinois. But it was decided that shortened school days were needed to help teachers working on both in-class and remote learning. The district will provide afternoon tutoring for students facing problems from the shortened class times.

Last week’s meeting was just one of several discussions on the school reopening plans. Dieterich Superintendent Cary Jackson has been impressed with the dedication of the school board members, teachers and administrators on getting the details down for providing a safe learning environment this fall.

"They have been very conscientious on making everyone safe. There have not been any hasty decisions," Jackson said. All board members, administrators and school staff present during the special meeting showed their concern for COVID safety by wearing face masks.

But the cloth is ticking so the final details need to be completed during the Aug. 10 Unit 30 school board meeting. Then in a week, the students return to a place most have not walked into since March.