Farmington plans to make masks optional

For The Weekly Post

 FARMINGTON – Wearing masks will be optional for Farmington students when they return to school this year.

That was among the points in a back-to-school plan approved by the school board at its July 19 meeting by a 4-3 vote. Voting against the plan were board members Travis Mahr, Keith Depperman and Eric Stanley.

And while masks will be optional in school – unless positivity rates increase or guidelines change – wearing masks will be required of students who ride the buses based on Centers for Disease Control policies regarding public transportation.

Remote learning will be available for anyone with medical conditions, which according to Superintendent Zac Chatterton is a “small percentage” of students. Junior high and high school remote learners will participate in classes that are livestreamed. Elementary remote students will be given “appropriate instructional content and access to teacher support.”

Medically fragile students who opt for remote learning will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.

Chatterton said quarantining students who are symptomatic or exposed to a positive COVID case will be based on directives by the local health department.

The school proposes three levels of mitigation (minimal, moderate and substantial), which will be determined based on case numbers reported weekly by Peoria County. Increases in positive cases will lead to stricter mitigations.

At the minimal level, masks are recommended if students are closer than 3 feet for more than 15 minutes. Social distancing of 3 feet will be sought wherever possible.

“At the elementary level in the general classroom setting, [3-foot distancing] will be extremely challenging,” Chatterton said. “And we’re brainstorming on how to get meals served while maintaining as much distance as possible.”

At the top level of mitigations, the plan stipulates that, “Masks may be required for all students and staff.” Based on a motion by board member Dustin Blunier, that line was amended from an earlier plan which read, “Masks may be required for all unvaccinated students and staff.”

Lockers and drinking fountains will again be available under the plan, band and physical education classes will resume and field trips and school assemblies may be possible pending administrative approval.

“This can change at any time,” Chatterton noted.

The board will hold an open hearing on Aug. 9 regarding its e-learning plan.

In other business, the board, which spent nearly three hours in a closed executive session, approved:
• Contracting with Mobex, Inc., and Athletico Training for athletic drug testing.
• Hiring LifeTouch as district photographer.
• A slight increase in bread costs under a bid from Alpha Baking Company.
• Several five-year policy updates.
• A slight decrease in the milk bid from Prairie Farms, which will once again provide for 1% chocolate milk.
• A contract with Pro Com for collection of unpaid student fees.
• A resolution for Chatterton to prepare the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
• An agreement with the Canton YMCA to provide before- and after-school care for students in grade K-6, including delayed-start Mondays.
• Resignations of Monty Morris (custodian), Donovan Benson (boys golf coach), Lesia Stanley (cafe) and Julie Springer and Lori Vallas (junior high/elementary yearbook).
• Hiring Kelly Cratty (district secretary), Dale Horn (junior high student supervisor), Kelli Miller (elementary student facilitator), Benson (junior high boys basketball assistant and freshman coach), Caitlyn Clayton (junior high student council sponsor), Nathan Schroeder (JV boys basketball coach) and fall sports volunteers including: Dylan Hayden, Zach Lozier and Waylon Nolan (football); Kent Simmons and Ciara Ulm (cheer), Kathryn Zaborac and Ashley Howard (softball), McKenzie Skaggs and Emma Vallas (girls basketball), and Eric Higgs (boys basketball).