If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
A continuation of an interview held July 14, 2021
Q: Going back to what the ISBE said that if you don’t comply with the rules, you could lose funding, say they go back to that. You guys were still lax on the masks and you lose funding, could the school operate on the tax revenue coming in? Or would there be a way for the school to operate?
A: That’s a good question. If I knew we were going to lose funding, my recommendation would not be what it is to begin with. My gut feeling is that the ISBE were premature in wielding that heavy hammer that they did and in doing so, more or less painted themselves in the corner. Then the CDC comes out with a statement that they’re not recommending mask use for those that have been vaccinated, only those that haven’t been vaccinated. Then when specifically asked for clarification, the ISBE kind of threw it back on the CDC. My gut feeling is that they’re trying to walk it back in a way that helps them save face. I think it was politically not smart to paint themselves in the corner to begin with. But the State Superintendent is a political appointment. The state superintendent is not an elected position. It’s appointed by the Governor. I’m getting into politics and I’m not trying to get too far in the weeds in that regard, but if you’ve got a liberal Democratic Governor, then the state superintendent is going be reflective of those attitudes. I’ll leave it at that.
Q: If that was to happen, could you guys survive on the revenue or would that be something that would be cut?
A: You’re kind of asking a multi-layered question. If you’re asking from the standpoint of could we survive for a time with no state funding, the answer would be yes. I wouldn’t want to do that for any length of time. If I thought for a minute we would lose state funding as a result of my recommendation I’m about to make, then I wouldn’t make it to begin with.
Q: There were superintendents that signed ‘Unmask the Kids’ that went to Pritzker.
A: One of them went to the Governor and I think one of them went to the State Superintendent. There were hundreds and hundreds of people on that list.
Q: Did you sign it?
A: I signed something that basically said it should be a local decision. I was in contact with Senator Chapin Rose’s office. I talked to the Regional Superintendent and Area Superintendents. Before the CDC released the most recent guidance, I was cautiously optimistic that the pressure that was starting to build from the Superintendents from across the state would be enough, especially if you got some down state legislatures involved that would be enough for them to reconsider. Then when the CDC came out with their recent guidance, I think that gave the ISBE the out that they needed, saying we’re done dictating and going to listen to the CDC.
Q: I’ve seen a few things where they’re pushing the vaccine for 5-11 year olds. Do you see that being mandatory to be able to attend school?
A: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I really can’t predict if that’s going to be mandatory for kiddos to be in school. I know my son is at the U of I, he already had the vaccine. I know to attend in person, you’re going to have to get the vaccine. Those are college age kids. I think in almost every case, over the age of 18, they can make that decision themselves. I can’t really predict to be honest with you. My personal thought is that if enough adults would do their due diligence and really research this, I think there would be a higher percentage of people vaccinated, not only in our area, but nationwide. I think that this would be over, when I say this, this pandemic would be over sooner rather than later. I think it might drag out for years because there’s a real resistance for people to get the vaccine. I’m politically conservative, but I was one of the first to get vaccinated. I was vaccinated back in February. The only people ahead of me were the people over eighty for the most part or healthcare workers. I felt like I did my research. I talked directly to a research scientist at Pfizer. Are their negative side effects with the vaccines potential long term? There are with any vaccine. I think what you have to do is weigh what is the greater risk. Is there a greater risk of a potential negative long term consequence or is there a greater risk of having sever illness or maybe even death if you get COVID? I’ve known some people who are not particularly fit or in the best of health and barely knew they had it. I’ve known some people who are significantly younger, exercise every day and were sick for a month and still feeling the after effects months later. I don’t want to be that sick. That’s one of the reasons I got it. That was a selfish reason. Another reason I got it was I work in the school system here, my wife works at the school system in St. Joe. I didn’t want to be the individual whose carrying COVID cooties back and forth between two different counties and ends up indirectly shutting down two different school districts. For me, that was a big load off of my mind and I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. If you’re going to be here everyday, even if you have masks on, you’re still exposing yourself to that, there’s still a risk. I’m kind of in the middle, maybe this is more than you want to know, but I’m in the middle as far as the risks that I took before I was vaccinated. I wasn’t secluded, but there was adjustments I made in my lifestyle. Not only did I not want to be sick personally, I didn’t want to be guilty of transmitting it to others. When I got vaccinated, all that worry went away. It was like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. To add another personal piece to it, I get the flu shot every year and I’ve had both ends of the shingles vaccine. Are there potential negative side effects with those vaccines? Absolutely. But in my mind, the risk of a long term negative effect is very slight and when I compare that to not wanting to have the flu or shingles, it was worth the minimal risk.
Q: They’re saying that the ‘Delta’ variant is going around too. Would that possibly make the schools shut down and go to full remote learning or is that based on the cases?
A: The latter. That kind of goes back to what I said earlier. I think there would be much less worry with the Delta variant if more people would just get vaccinated because you’re gonna tempt the disease down and it’s not going to have the ability to mutate. That being said, to me, it doesn’t really matter, well I guess it does, I’m more concerned with sick kiddos regardless as to what strain they have. It’s more on numbers, not so much what the variant is. Although I think that ultimately has to be part of the consideration because supposedly that’s more infectious.
Q: Is there a backup plan if the school had to go to remote learning? Are they still planning for that?
A: Absolutely. Here’s the thing. If you think about this time last year, we were trying to make decisions as administrative teams and boards of education as to what we wanted to do. It was about this time that we decided that we were going to try to go every day, but we’re going to have a shortened school day. I had people tell me from the middle of July to the beginning of school last year that by Labor Day, you’re going to be shut down. I said ‘maybe, but I feel like we have to try’. Then one week turned into two weeks, then two weeks turned into a month, and it was like, well, let’s keep going. We kind of had a saying ‘every day that we’re in session is a blessing’. The idea was never to shut our doors if we had a spike in numbers. The idea or plan at the time was to close for as long as necessary to get our numbers down, then get back in session. That’s the best way for the kiddos to learn.
Q: Is that the same plan for this year?
A: Absolutely. What does that look like? A week or two weeks? Probably a couple of weeks at least if you’ve got a lot of people quarantined. You got to get them though that phase. You do remote learning, then come back. It’s the same plan, but we hope not to implement that. But because of what happened at the end of the school year last year, we’re actually into our third school year if you think about it. We shut down March of 2020, that was one school year. Then we dealt with is pretty much everyday last year, now we’re into our third school year. We feel like we can deliver a decent education remotely if we have to because we did it at the end of 2020 when kids were quarantined. I talked to Cole Huber yesterday. We talked about the fact that if kids are quarantined, we’re going to require them to check in live streaming. If they’re too sick, then they’re too sick. If you’re feeling fine and just quarantined because of close contact, then you don’t get to sleep until noon, you’re going to check in and follow class in real time. We found out a lot about technology – of how to deliver an education remotely. It looked a little bit different from class to class. We had a situation that teachers were quarantined and the kiddos were here and the teacher was streaming into their classroom with a sub there. I stood and watched a couple of classes like that. Was it as good as the teacher being there? Arguably no, but it was pretty close.
Q: How did last year prepare you for this year?
A: I think we learned a lot about how the disease is transmitted and how its not transmitted. I’ll give you an example. At the beginning, everyone was real big on sanitizing surfaces. Well, it turns out that it doesn’t really spread that way. We learned that we don’t need to spend the time. If you can keep things clean, there’s things that would always have been a good idea in cold and flu season. We’re certainly going to continue to wash hands and we’re going to have all of our water fountains turned into water bottle fillers. I think those are things that maybe schools should have considered prior to this to not spread germs generally. I think our reaction to things will be different because we understand more about how it’s transmitted and how it’s not transmitted.
Q: There’s some parents who are on the fence about sending their kids back. What advice would you give them?
A: We’re seeing it both ways. I’m not going to send my kids if they have to wear a mask and I’m not going to send my kid if no one is wearing a mask. All I would tell them is that if they feel better about their kids wearing a mask, then put a mask on them and send them to school. If this all holds up and masks won’t be required, then we shouldn’t have parents who are saying ‘I won’t sent my kids to school if they are wearing a mask’. We can never one hundred percent guarantee the safety of any kid. Life is always with risks. What bothers me the most in this whole situation is the inability to properly assess risk. I would not want to be as sick as some of the people that I know. I’m at the age where I might not live through it. That being said, even at my age, I’m twice as likely to be killed in an automobile accident as be killed by COVID even if I have COVID. I saw probably two months ago a lady riding a motorcycle with a mask and no helmet. I shook my head and thought to myself, you’re so afraid of COVID that you’ve got a mask on outside with fresh air flowing across your face continuously, yet you failed to realize what the bigger danger is.
You falling off of that thing and hitting your head. That’s what’s going to kill you. You look at the automobile analogy, I don’t want to be morbid, but anytime you get in an automobile, there’s a risk of dying in an accident. So, what do you do to mitigate risk? You put your seat belt on, you try not to drive like an idiot and you don’t drive under the influence. All these things are going to bring down risk. Is it ever going to bring your risk down to zero? No. So for people to all of a sudden demand with this particular disease, risk is going to be zero, it’s not going to be realistic. Say with an automobile, maybe the government should mandate that the speed limit be twenty miles per hour and install governs on your vehicle to make sure you don’t go over twenty. Would that reduce the death rates? Certainly. But would people want to put up with that? I wouldn’t want to. I think you have to look at if you want to allow your kiddo to go to school, in person, then you have to realize there are some risks associated with them being at school. It might not be catching COVID, which young people have shown to respond better than people at my age. It may be an automobile accident.
Q: Are you still doing the testing?
A: We are. We’ve done that for people who have exhibited symptoms or come into close contact. That’s allowed us to save some lost learning time. If we look at expanding it to testing our un-vaccinated once a week, we’re going to have to get more people trained in that. That all can’t fall on Nurse Trisha (Brinkley).
Q: What is the testing? Is it the saliva and they spit in the tube?
A: That’s a great question. I should’ve been more curious and wandered down there once and said when you get someone down here testing, let me know.
Q: They just test once a week?
A: We weren’t doing that, that’s what the ECDPH (Edgar County Department of Public Health) is suggesting if we get the man power to do it.
Q: What was the testing going on before?
A: At that point, the vaccines were just coming out so it wasn’t the un-vaccinated. Let me make sure I say that correctly, it was people that had close contact.
Q: Is there going to be any cold or flu season precautions? Is there going to be more testing?
A: I’m not sure what the testing will look like, but I can say if we expand it, if we have kids that are exhibiting regular cold and flu symptoms, it might be wise to test them just to eliminate the possibility that they have COVID. We had a handful of parents who sent their kids to school and they had very clear COVID symptoms. Not just cold and flu, but no sense of taste, it’s like ‘What’re you thinking?’.
I think if we can expand out testing, it’s going to put a lot of folks’ minds at ease who are reluctant to send their kiddos and give us another tool to getting an accurate indication of what our numbers are doing and enhance mitigation.