CERRO GORDO — Like most school districts in the area, Cerro Gordo is planning to make masks optional inside of school buildings but required on buses this fall in accordance with Center for Disease Control and state COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Technically, the CDC “recommends” masks for those who are not vaccinated, but most are interpreting it as not required.

“So it is recommended by not requested?” Cerro Gordo school board member Angela Miller said.

“That is correct,” Superintendent Brett Robinson said at the July 21 board meeting.

He pointed out the plan is still being finalized, but that distancing of at least three feet between people inside is still the goal, and that cleaning schedules and regimens will be similar to 2020-21.

As for non-essential visitors, those who are not vaccinated will be discouraged from coming inside school buildings for now.

Robinson said students who wish to wear masks may do so.

“School staff are expected to model support for and encourage students to be supportive of people who choose to continue to wear a mask as a personal choice, or because of a personal medical reason,” Robinson said.

Miller said she was “quite uneasy” with the mask optional idea, noting that most elementary school children do not have access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“With the delta variant coming on stronger and harder and faster, that makes me uneasy,” Miller said.

Robinson said he monitors coronavirus case figures in both Piatt and Macon counties, and that the plan could pivot quickly if need be.

“Just as it happened last year. As you recall, we had a couple of instances where we made a decision to go full-remote at just the high school for a short period of time, and another time junior and senior high for a short period of time,” Robinson said.

“I’m hoping to not have to make any adjustments to the plan. But as last year was the case, the number one priority is the safety of students and staff, and should the circumstances dictate instituting additional mitigations to keep students and staff safe, we will not hesitate to do those.”

Audience member Joe Peter told the board he was not in favor of masks, saying it was one reason a school-aged child of his did not attend in person last school year.

“I don’t know what evidence you need, or what you need from me to convince you, but there is tons of information from the CDC and WHO contradicting themselves on masks,” said Peter.

“There are videos showing that when you put a mask on your face, the carbon (dioxide) levels go extremely high within the mask.”

Mayo Clinic agrees that carbon dioxide inhalation can increase when wearing a mask, but contends it is not enough to cause any health concerns. They recommend using cloth masks if someone has trouble breathing with masks made of other materials. WebMD and the Journal of the American Medical Association generally agree there is no health risks with wearing masks.

School Board President Tony Piraino thanked Robinson and school staff for their hard work during a trying school year and getting a re-opening plan drafted for this fall.

“Thank you for the collaboration and being very thorough. Hopefully it can stay like this for a while,” Piraino said.

Peter also asked if critical race theory would be taught at Cerro Gordo. Robinson said not at this time.

“CRT is not part of the Illinois Learning Standards, therefore not part of the Cerro Gordo curriculum. We follow the Illinois learning standards in our curriculum,” Robinson said.

Summer work

The $600,000 brick re-facing project on the 1962 addition is proceeding, and should be completed by contractor Petry-Kuhne by the time school starts back up.

Adventure Turf of Brookfield, Wisconsin is also hard at work on a $150,000 playground renovation at the elementary school. It will include replacement of the wood chip base with a more forgiving rubber one, as well as new swings and pre-kindergarten play equipment.

That effort should also be complete by mid-August.

Other summer projects have included a slight bleacher reconfiguration at the football field and remodeling of four classrooms in the elementary school annex.

New hallway lockers at the high school will wait until Christmas break due to delays in delivery.

In other action, the board:

—approved the school handbooks and fee structures for 2020-21. Fees remain the same as the previous school year;

—approved a preliminary budget for the school year, which Robinson said was balanced. A final vote is expected in September;

—considered variations on middle school roofing bids, which could depend on how long the district plans on using the building. No classes are currently held in the structure, and the district considered tearing it down after the high school addition addition was completed. The board was scheduled to continue its meeting on Monday night to discuss the roofing bids further; and

—increased the rate of pay for substitute teachers from $100 to $110 per day.

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