EAST PEORIA — First a pandemic. Then historic rains.
Plans to reopen East Peoria Community High School for the first time since it closed in March along with the rest of the schools in Illinois have flip-flopped from remote learning to in-school learning and now back to remote learning, all in the drop of 9 inches of rain.
"We received 9.3 inches of rain on July 15 causing flooding and debris and mud in the parking lot and surrounding the industrial wing of the high school," District 309 Superintendent Marjorie Greuter said Tuesday. "Since then, we’ve found we need to do a total asbestos abatement in order to replace the flooring."
The building is closed to the public for two months. A letter has been emailed to high school families and is posted on the district’s website, www.ep309.org.
The district had planned to reopen for the 2020-21 school year with in-school classes five days a week. While work is being done on the school building in the wake of the flood, classes will begin remotely instead on Aug. 20. Greuter said she hoped to have the students back inside the school by the middle of September.
Or, "Mid-September-ish," as she put it.
The school board has approved a plan for five days of in-school learning with an alternative schedule. Individual class periods will be longer (75 minutes) although school days will be shorter (5 hours, 15 minutes, plus a grab-and-go lunch). A typical full day of school with seven class periods will be spread out over two days.
So, odd number class periods, one, three, five and seven will alternate days with class periods two, four and six.
The same schedule will apply to remote learning when school opens on Aug. 20 and then transition to in-school learning when the building is ready for occupancy.
The idea between extending a single school day over two days "is to give teachers contact with only half of their students on any given day," Greuter said.
Students and staff will be required to wear face masks at all times. Social distancing guidelines will be implemented "whenever possible." That means, according to Greuter, there could be times when students are only 4 feet apart instead of 6 feet apart inside a classroom.
"The board agreed it was best to do the best we can with the guidelines but important to get the students back in the classroom," she said.
Greuter said the district has taken the flood in stride, even in the midst of a pandemic that already changed the course of learning in the district.
"At this point, we are sort of crisis-numb," Greuter said.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.