July 9, 2021
The July 2021 Advisory Council meeting was moved up to July 9th to accommodate vacationers during this month. The meeting was conducted via zoom. Present was Molly, Mark Peters, Greg Ketchum, Aimee Veith and me.
A discussion concerning Mark Peters last meeting was held. Mrs. Veith told the group that although Mark was a stake holder but he moved from Illinois and though the rules do not explicitly say he cannot be Chairman she did not think it was for him to be the President if he no longer lives in the state. Greg Ketchum said he understood. She said his term was up anyway. She said she thought moving forward zoom was a good tool to have, that it would allow us to reach more stakeholders, and alumni that have a vested interest in the school. Without the Chair present minutes and agenda items could not be approved. Mrs. Veith said she would just give those present an overview of what's going on. Honestly, she said, we are just in a holding pattern with what the fall will look like with what the State Board of Ed will come out with their latest mitigations. ISBE is moving to a new location so they will want to get their things out before the move. There is a petition circling the state for them to follow all things in Phase 5, but schools are not included. We will be under a mask mandate when we come back as well as the 3-6 feet distance depending on the environment. Dining rooms are still the biggest concern for all schools at this time but I don't think it will impact our school any more than it did in the spring because fortunately we have a low enough number we had two lunches set up previously so kids could stay two to a table with plexiglass in place and though our numbers are increasing there will not be more than 50 students in one lunch period. I think we will start the same as we ended, we will probably be serving breakfast in the dorms, we may move back to serving some dinners in the dining room. She said a poll last year of the students show they love having breakfast in the dorm and the staff agreed it was a much more seamless transition if the students were able to eat their breakfast in the dorms and day students were able to join them as needed. They were able to eat at the dining room table if they chose or in their dorm at TLC or in the common area if they chose. I don't foresee that breakfast may never come back; we will see what happens. And, dinners, the kids would like to have some in the dorm like some kind of family style with just the pod they live with and some they would like to have in the dining room so they can be with everyone all at once. I think we will remain fluid depending on what ISBE says. Mrs. Veith asked the group if they had any questions about mitigations at this point. She said students and staff did a great job with cleaning. She said we can relax a little on that but she said they discussed it and decided why should we if it's doable by all the staff because it also kept down numbers in the flu, rhino virus, strep, she said we had none of that while the kids were here even though it was out and about in the environment. She said we will start slow with small community outings, they will be masked they will be allowed to have community passes if they are doing what we ask. It will be as normal as your life is at this point. Any medical appointments they go to they would certainly have to be masked. Greg Ketchum told Mrs. Veith the last time they talked Mrs. Veith said she had heard Uber or Lyft was coming to town. He wanted to know if she had heard more about that to which she replied, yes, she heard it was still in discussion, but it hasn't happened yet. Mrs. Veith said at least they are talking about it. She said three or four years ago when it was brought up the City was against it. The pandemic has helped because now they are talking about it. She said almost every local restaurant is now on Door Dash. She said our kids utilized Door Dash quite a bit when they were here. Instacart is here and stores are using it. County Market has their own version of Instacart. We've been working with the kids to learn to use those kinds of things and trying to find that balance for them in the fall. We're all trying to find that balance, not because of covid but the convenience. We talked about in curriculum development for math classes this summer trying to teach them there is an upcharge on those things so they have to account for that but does the convenience upcharge outweigh the convenience in your life if you have to take a taxi in Jacksonville versus paying a upcharge in Instacart, what is it that is valuable to you at that time in your life, how do you justify those kinds of costs and meet your needs. Those are things that we are all learning and certainly we want to pass those things on to our kids as well. So those are things we talked about being more focused on in our Independent Life Skills classes as well as Consumer Ed, Economics, those kinds of things because this is where life is going. These things are not going away, and we are all using them. Molly asked for the family style meals or students being served in their dorms is that mostly RSW focused where they are completing the meals and giving them to them or is there any kind of instruction in etiquette about doing that kind of family style or accessing the food? Aimee replied when we did it in the spring it was more it was eco-friendly packages that were bought to the dorm that way. We discussed where is that happy medium when we return in the fall. When we return in the fall it would be more things that would, if the kids are in their own little bubble and they've been vaccinated, now they can have like a crock pot, which we had done some crock pot meals anyway, but if there's a crock pot of food or whatever they made, we are trying to find different things each pod can make each week and then learn more about that family style, serving and passing things to one another and having it more as an educational piece as well. In the spring when we did it for the strict mitigations, we were under, everything was pre-packaged. We will probably, we are watching that Delta variant very closely, but I do think, hopefully, we will start right where we are, get everyone settled, and then transition to where they learn to pass to one another and we are also watching how many of our kids come back and how many have been vaccinated. It's not going to be a requirement. Some of the suggestions you are looking at for congregate living that everybody who is vaccinated lives together. That's a great idea but it doesn't work in planning depending upon the age of the person and the choices that person has made and what space we have available. There's a lot of logistics around that. Then there is question that if you were to move somebody based on whether they've had a vaccination is that some type of discrimination. Those are all the discussions that are flying around, and we are still meeting biweekly now, last year we were meeting four or five times a week with various committees of DHS and now we are meeting biweekly regarding school infection control and then just overall school planning. We are still in a holding pattern until that stuff comes out from ISBE today at some point today I expect. If it comes out, I'll send you guys a link, so you have the same thing we have. Likely we will do what we did last year which was bring in a group of educators and a committee, go through them and make sure we are all on the same page.
Mark joined the group.
Aimee told Mark that without him here we could not go forward with the meeting and there were not enough people here to go forward with elections so that would have to be tabled. She said she was giving them an update on where we're at mitigation wise and we're kind of in a holding pattern until we get ISBE's latest guidance which I expect to come out either tonight or next Friday night. That kind of gets us through Old Business. She filled Mark in on the fact that dining room service was still the big question and gave Mark a quick update on what she told the group. Greg Ketchum said when he attended ISVI a long time ago, family style service was what they did. He said it was not until high school that they transition to the way it's been done of late. Aimee said there's a lot to learn by eating together as a family and we haven't done much of that. We need to get back to that practice. She told Mark we don't know yet how many of our kids have been vaccinated but we do know a lot of them are doing it which is great but about 17% of our kids are under the age of those who can have the vaccine. We will most likely be under that mask mandate. She said the question is will we have to have it in dorms like TLC if 70% of the kids are vaccinated. Those are the things that remains to be seen. She said they were watching the Delta variant; it is impacting kids and it is highly transmissible and it is four times more likely for someone to be in the hospital. So, we are still very much in a covid situation unfortunately. Mark said he had heard Jacksonville was having several cases of covid. Aimee said yes, but ISVI has not had a positive case in months. When school was in session in the spring there were none. We are still doing weekly testing and we are working with parents now if they have any questions about vaccinations for their student. It's likely we will offer another clinic for staff if some have changed their minds and there are enough who want to do that, we will support that Greg asked if we would offer shots to students if we can? Aimee said yes, we have worked with Morgan County and we were willing to offer a clinic here when it was 15 and above but when kids came back a large percentage had had their shots in a local setting. If a student was here and it was time for their second shot, we bussed them home with a dorm parent then we went and picked them up three days later so their parents could observe them. The key is if something were to go wrong with a student having that shot, we would want them to be with their parents if possible so if a parent wants them to have the shot we will certainly work with them in their local area. It remains to be seen how kids 12 and above might not have the shot by the time we get back and that might be something we do. We did take one young lady to the State Fairgrounds and she did great with the shot while she was here, but she was an adult and that was her choice. It's a lot of parental choice at this point. You really want them to be by their local physician if something should go wrong.
Molly Pasley, a new member, introduced herself to the group. She said she was an Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University. She said she has known Aimee a long time. She lives in Peoria, she worked as a teacher for the visually impaired certified orientation and mobility instructor throughout the State of Illinois for about 13 years now and just finished her first year as a University Professor, I have supported ISVI with their Opening Doors Program for a few years.
Aimee said this is probably Kerrie Rawlings last meeting and asked Kerrie if she wanted to the group about where she was going. Kerrie said updates on grant, IDEA B was submitted before July 1 deadline, so far nothing. No approval, still going through review. IDEA B Discretionary Grant, which is your Opening Doors grant, that actually was submitted this morning. I do not foresee any issues with that grant because it is so well written. We are still waiting on for ISBE to open the Career and Tech Ed grant, we are looking for the same as last, so we are kind of in a holding pattern. They told back in May we received the same amount of money to just wait on an email saying the grant would open in the IWAS. She said she didn't know with everything going on if that was why everything was coming out a little bit later but she said at least the discretionary grant was submitted, we will be able to have any charges from July 1 on so there are no issues. She said at the end of this month I will be leaving as the school's DHS Liaison and moving on to another DHS facility, still working with youth. Looking forward to the new adventure but I have enjoyed my time and I told Aimee, and I'll say it to this day going forward, ISVI has always held my heart. It was the motivation I need to keep going forward, with Dietary in the last two years and the fight to get the school the things they needed. She said it has been a pleasure to serve this school and I look forward to hearing the endeavors of ISVI. Aimee told Kerrie we certainly appreciated her time and efforts, working the 10-12-14 hour days during covid making sure the kids had the right PPE we had all the equipment, the air handler we got, the extra nurses and staff we got during this time to be able to bring the kids back as far as all that technology, Kerrie is probably one of the most significant players in that game in order that we became a one to one school in a matter of three months.
Aimee told Mark that as far as the e-learning plan Mark, it's the same basic document that I shared with you last year and it meets all the guidelines set forth by the State Board of Ed. Changes that were made are technology and the kinds of technology we now have and how we are going to be able to be e-learning and what that would mean for us. Last year there was a definitional difference between remote and e-learning. Remote is what we were doing from last March until April, meaning all kids were remote. E-learning would be some schools, before covid that was about 4 schools in the State of Illinois who had an e-learning plan on file, now I am assuming about 95% of them will have an e-learning plan on file post covid. The biggest fear that we had pre covid to having e-learning pre covid was having technology in all the kid's hands, and now we do. And we will continue to do so moving forward. In our calendar in the state you still have to have emergency days on your calendar, so we have five. But let's say January 5th the kids can't get back because there is a blizzard. At Christmastime we will instruct all the students and staff to take home their computers so that we are prepared so if we are not able to come back we will post an e-learning day using google classroom using zoom and other hopefully other web based platform so we will have again some synchronous and some asynchronous time. The teachers will a folder, for example on Google classroom and it will say e-learning and you will go to that if there is a need for that, they'll do the work that's necessary and then they will have two days to turn it in. The harder part for us is going to be that at some point during that day is that they're going to have to get in one of our vans and come to school. We will have to be a-synchronous in order for them to be fulfill all those needs, so they may have to do some homework when they get back that night, we will have to help them learn to balance that, just like any school that's going to call an e-learning day instead of a snow day because in theory on a snow day there's not going to be a parent in the home to tell them don't forget to do your homework, they are going to do it when they get home that night with their parent. So we are going to have to work with our kids and try to explicitly teach them in the fall what e-learning is going to look like and maybe do some practice runs and remind them and especially teach our new kids how to, we will remain in the physical school and learn how to access that and where those e-learning things are going to be in the event if they would be called. So somewhere in October we are going to have to start teaching them just in case Illinois has an early blizzard in November at Thanksgiving, wild things happen. She said she thought every school would be doing that, taking some morning out to teach kids this is what's going to happen if it comes across your screen that we are having an e-learning versus a snow day. It's really interesting to see other schools of thought, when you attend the meetings on whether or not schools should have a snow day versus e-learning, and it's really interesting and there is not right or wrong answer per district, and it's pretty much a district led decision. I will say that the locally Jacksonville wants to remain having snow days for some reason but I think for us and the fact that we work with so many districts across state and our kids are so wide and varied this is a great opportunity for us to not have to forsake learning due to snow or some other inclement thing, let's say we didn't have heat here for some reason, we now know how to do this and how to reach kids. Molly asked two clarifying questions. She said google school, she asked if that was google classroom or google Chromebook? Aimee replied Google Classroom. Molly said so you use regular ….Aimee said we use Windows based laptops or IOS devices depending upon what our assistive device, whatever Mrs. Roy determine as a team what is best for the child at the time and they are given internet access that way. Molly asked then internet capabilities. Aimee said those kids who do not have internet capabilities, they are going to be sent home with a MiFi or there are data plans on some of the IPads so if they are IOS users they will have data plans on their IPads. We know which one of our kids, and honestly, I believe only two of our kids at the end of the school year had to use our MiFi, or three. Aimee said we purchased more to be ready and, in the fall, we will have ten more in reserve. We will survey the kids and especially the new kids, have some townhalls, get the parents prepared, and last year Mrs. Roy did a townhall for the parents on how to access Google Classroom and how to plug in your MiFi and anything else they needed so we will have to institute some of those things again before inclement weather to be sure everyone is on the same page. We've also talked about, let's say a child has to go home because of a death in the family, or they have to go home for a medical need in the middle of the week, maybe they have a specialist appointment, in the past they would have lost 3 or 4 days of education, say the parents can't get them back but we can get them back on the ISD bus on Sunday, but now do we work with those kids to take home that material ahead of time. So those are logistical questions we are still working out, how feasible is that to do that on a turn for one or two kids. I think it is and we are just going to have to work with the teaching staff on how best to do that. Mark asked if a student was present physically could they still be in class. Mrs. Veith said yes, remote, however the State is saying right now remote is not going to be an option going forward but it will be interesting to see if ISBE still supports this, unless, remote would only be optional if your doctor deemed that you are unable to come back to a school setting because you cannot have the vaccine or some other health mitigating factor why you can't come back to school. She said none of our kids, maybe one meet that requirement this time but we are not offering remote just because. We have had parents asked but at this time we are not offering it just because you want to stay home. Molly said it has to be an ADA accommodation. Aimee agreed with Molly and she said she didn't think that was best for any kid for them to be isolated. We've already been isolated for two years. Aimee asked Molly what not leaving their room would for their orientation and mobility. Molly said she said there is a program she just finished through the Lighthouse in St. Louis, an intensive three week program and after coming off the pandemic she said they had a lot of learners that hadn't received O&M training for 18 months and they really felt that especially when we were having them do two hours a clip so agreed. Aimee said fortunately we have been able to send Mr. Foster (ISVI's O&M Instructor) out to local kids this summer and he's even done some 2-3 hour jaunts to help those kids stay up with those skills. We just had discussions about those kids that haven't been here for 18 months, so he's going to try and reach out to them in August and make them the focus in August so he can maybe get them here for maybe a day and do some innovative things as far as where we are in the learning curve once we do return. Mark asked how many students would be remote. Aimee said she did not know; they have to file their medical paperwork. No one has. She said two have asked but they do not meet the requirements. They would either choose to remain in their local home school or take their diplomas. She said these are transitional students. One has a job in his home community 5 hours a week and he's 20 years old, so the question is does he return to us and try to transfer his job here to Jacksonville? There are some things he needs to work on going forward. The pandemic has made us think outside of the box. While he is meeting that goal in DRS land of having a job in his community, it doesn't, that job at this time doesn't align with his transition goals in his IEP. So, does he still have some need in is IEP to advance his academic skills, the answer would arguably be yes but who then meets those needs. These are really things that are making us stretch our brains and think outside of the box and decide individually what is best for each kid. We had another student who has a job related questions and his job actually does align with their transition, so that's a really even harder discussion to have, they found a job related to their transition in their community and yet they have some academic skills now what is the least restrictive environment now in order to meet those needs. It's really a fascinating discussion and it really makes you think. These are questions we never would have asked ourselves 18 months ago, it would have been a no brainer, come back to school or stay in your home school, your decision but now maybe there is a hybrid that needs to happen, we don't know. Mark said he saw in the Health Center Report that they were going to try and make it simpler to fill out medical forms instead of all the unnecessary…..Aimee said there are a lot of forms in our Admissions and Records and we are certainly looking at streamlining them, how do we make it easier for doctors to get access to them. The annual medical information we make parents get each year, is it really necessary. Aimee asked Greg if he had questions, he did not. She asked Molly if she had any student teachers with questions. Molly said it is funny you would ask, that she spoke with Stacy Kelly another professor at Northern and her concern because she has worked at Illinois State before is the sequencing of our TVI interns and student teachers and O&M interns. Our TVI as student teachers fall in with when you have your field base from ISU and so her concern is she recognizes that you already have a strong base with Illinois State and we don't want to burden staff at ISVI by asking for more placements. Aimee suggested we keep doing what we do to meet each institution needs, especially in O & M. Molly said that would be great, but ISVI's O&M must have three years' experience. Aimee said we should visit this yearly. The goal is to increase the number of TVIs here. She went on to tell the group about the new preschool, interviews for preschool educator are coming up.
Aimee bought the meeting to a close since no business could be conducted, and these things would have to be revisited at the next Advisory Council Meeting in October. The meeting then adjourned.