UPDATE: MHS to delay start of school year

Students will start in person on Sept. 8

MENDOTA - Mendota High School students will get a few more weeks of vacation after the District 280 Board of Education voted to delay the first day of school until Tuesday, Sept. 8.

An Aug. 5 special meeting was called due to a recent steep rise in positive COVID-19 tests in Mendota and throughout LaSalle County. Board president Jim Lauer said school officials have been closely monitoring statistics. “We are listening to what the pandemic told us and looking at all options based on what’s going on locally,” he explained.

Superintendent Jeff Prusator said from March through June during the shut down, there were a total of 22 confirmed cases locally. In July, there were 53 and in the first five days of August there are already 36. “So, we can see where it’s going,” he said.

He also shared several other statistics from the LaSalle County Health Department:

  • Mendota has almost 20 percent of all the cases in LaSalle County.
  • Of 1,085 tests in the Mendota zip code, 111 were positive, which is a 10.3 percent positivity rate. Prusator noted that 47 of those cases were at Heritage Health, but even subtracting that number, Mendota still has a 6.2 percent positivity rate.
  • In the last 30 days, there have been 80 positive cases reported in Mendota.

Because of the dramatic rise in positive cases, administration and board members agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss several options for starting school. Prusator reminded everyone that the original plan to start school on Aug. 14 was presented last month with several “Statements of Understanding.” “One of those statements was that the plan was subject to change at any time,” Prusator said.

Four options were then presented: Option 1-Start school as planned, Option 2-Remote learning only, Option 3-Monitor data and meet again in 8-10 days, and Option 4-Delay the start until after Labor Day and see if there is a downward trend at that time. Prusator said Option 4 seemed most reasonable because Aug. 14 is relatively early to start school and even if they wait until after Labor Day to start, the high school would still be able to end the year somewhere between June 4 and June 14.

“We have to consider risk versus reward,” Prusator commented. “Remote learning is the last resort. It is the least effective way to deliver learning and it is very difficult to start the year with remote learning. And with a hybrid plan, if students attend classes in person half of the day, there is basically the same risk as if they were here full time.”

In addition, sports seasons will be held in the spring and not end until some time in June, so students would still be in school to complete the season.

After several board members said they were in agreement that a delayed start was the best option, the board voted unanimously to start in person classes for MHS students on Sept. 8. Teachers will return on Sept. 3 and 4. If statistics over the next several weeks do not improve, however, the new start date is subject to change.

“There has to be a community effort to get this back under control,” Prusator emphasized. “The police department and the city offices are again closed to the public and some of the local restaurants have voluntarily closed indoor dining again. This would be our part to help get the trend going down.”


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