South readies for reopening


Carter Johnson, Staff Writer

After a year of hybrid and e-learning, South is beginning to plan ahead for the 2021-2022 school year regardless of many unknowns, Cameron Muir, associate principal for curriculum and instruction, said.

Although students were given the option of e-learning, hybrid, or in-person learning this year, Muir anticipates all students will return to the building come August, with the exception of immunocompromised students.

“I expect that we’ll probably be back to normal as much as possible with students coming into the building,” Muir said. “We’re going to be following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) site guidelines and Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) guidance as well.”

Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel explained that although the CDC recently changed the mask wearing requirements for fully vaccinated people, as a public school South has to follow the guidelines of the state and county rather than the CDC.

“For now, [the IDPH and CCDPH] are saying we need to continue to wear masks indoors at school,” Fagel said. “But I am hopeful that by fall, with even more students vaccinated, we will not be required to wear masks at school.”

Fagel noted that the IDPH and CCDPH are still deciding how the new CDC guidelines will affect schools, but it may be the decision of the District 225 Board of Education.

“If [masks are] required then we’ll do it,” Fagel said. “If [mask wearing is] optional, then our Board of Education will have to decide if they want to require [masks] or if they want to make [them] optional.”

As with other viruses like meningitis, a vaccination will not be required to learn in-person if students have a religious, moral or health-based objection, Fagel said. However, students who have received the vaccine will be exempt from the standard 14-day quarantine.

“If there is a quarantine that takes place and that [vaccinated person] is a part of the group that would have been quarantined, they don’t need to be quarantined,” Muir explained.

While this year’s lunch was 90 minutes long, twice the length of previous years’, next year the lunch time will return to 40 minutes, Muir explained.

“The hour and a half lunch was designed to accommodate bus schedules, allow for students to be able to go home at the end of the first two blocks and have other students who would want to arrive at the start of block three [get to school],” Muir said. “The only way to do that, and coordinate that with the bus company, was to provide an extended lunch.”
Despite students likely being in-person next year, Zoom will still be utilized as the state has replaced inclement weather days with “remote learning days”, Muir said. Rather than skip the day altogether, students will learn remotely via Zoom.

“We would probably send out an announcement like we typically do about closing school in terms of not coming to the building, and say, ‘Please [check] your email for further directions,’” Muir said.

In addition to mask wearing, it is expected that hand sanitizing and wiping down desks will be habits that are continued in the future, Muir said. Fagel has also found these to be beneficial practices to keep the school healthy.
Junior Sloan Greenfield explained her hope for a return to a typical school year, although she highlighted how the school excelled in adapting to the pandemic.

“I hope we can go back to some normalcy, like a homecoming and assemblies,” Greenfield said. “I think the school adapted really well this year and I enjoyed having some of the video sports assemblies, but I would love to be in person for those also.”