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THIS WEEK: Opening up the schools to students

Moline-Coal Valley students return to more in-school classroom studies this week

MOLINE, Ill. — Moline-Coal Valley students will return from their 2021 Spring Break with more time in the classroom.

The District will have students attend classes five in-school shortened days a week.

It comes as Illinois announced it was changing some of the in-building restrictions that were imposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"These are incredibly welcomed changes," said Moline-Coal Valley School Superintendent Dr. Rachel Savage.

"We had been anticipating  this modification in guidance for some time this change allows our school district to have the critical space we need to increase in person learning for more students," she said. 

It's part of changes being seen across the nation after federal health officials said three feet of separation between students is just as good as six feet in the classroom if other health precautions are being used.

"As we've found out with the coronavirus, things can change quickly," said Rock Island County Regional School Superintendent Tammy Muerhoff on "News 8 This Week with Jim Mertens".

You can listen to our entire interview with Regional School Superintendent Tammy Muerhoff on the THE CITIES PODCAST.

It's uncertain what impact the increasing numbers of COVID-positive cases will have on the plans to ease Illinois school restrictions.

But that's something schools have faced for a year now.

"Guidelines and recommendations were ever-changing and I think all of the personnel inside the schools did a phenomenal job to keep up with all of that, in addition parents and students," said Muerhoff.

Teachers, who have been seen as front line, essential workers, are also keeping a close eye on COVID case numbers and state health guidelines.

"We are going to follow the science," said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

"We're not just going to say that teachers are just going to follow the science when it works to our advantage because that's not true."

The teachers union had said it had concerns about any rush to change health precautions, especially in schools located in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

"If the science says three feet when you are vaccinated as an adult and keeping all of those safety precautions in place along with the cleaning and all of the routines that have to be done to make sure that everyone is safe, then we will be opening our schools," said Griffin.

But some Districts are loosening restrictions much more than others.

Two Iowa Districts, including North Butler Schools northwest of Cedar Falls, are getting rid of all mask mandates in the classroom.

"We spent a lot of time playing mask police and I think our job as educators is more important than just playing mask police," said North Boone School Superintendent Joel Foster.

He points out that the dangers of children getting sick from COVID are reduced .  He also said many of the masks used today aren't as safe as people think.

You can watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sunday mornings at 10 on WQAD News 8.