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Mold delays start to school year for Frankfort CUSD 168

Mold delays start to school year for Frankfort CUSD 168

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WEST FRANKFORT — COVID-19 isn’t the only threat to the start of the school year for Frankfort CUSD 168. Its other nemesis: mold.

Teachers were expected to report to school for planning days this coming Tuesday, with students starting back Friday, Aug. 14.

Instead, to allow ample time for mold mitigation and testing, teachers will not report to school until Monday, Aug. 17. The first day of student instruction has been delayed to Monday, Aug. 24.

The schedule change was determined by the school board at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Matt Donkin said that in recent days, moisture and cooling issues have led to mold growth in some classrooms on the third floor of the 100-year-old Frankfort Community High School.

The district has called in consultants and is contracting with a firm to mitigate the issue and conduct testing to make sure the rooms are clear of mold prior to the start of school, he said. In the most optimistic scenario, contractors would complete the work by Monday. But it’s possible that it takes later into the week to receive an “all clear.” Given that, Donkin said it made more sense to adjust the schedule now rather than try to do so at the last minute.

Prior to the pandemic, Donkin said the district had been looking at options to renovate and expand the high school. Those discussions are on hold for the time being with so many other pressing priorities, but it is something that will return to the agenda, he said.

“It’s a strong old building, but it has issues,” Donkin said of the high school.

Last year, mold similarly derailed the start of the school year for Unity Point CCSD 140 in Jackson County. Unity Point children were unable to start school until late August while remediation work was completed. That pushed their school year into mid-June.

Donkin said the Frankfort district will have more details in the next few days on the school calendar beyond August.

Once the mold has been cleared, Donkin said the district is planning to move forward with a hybrid learning model, where students spend some time learning in-person at school, and some time doing work remotely. Parents also have the option of choosing a remote-only plan. Depending on the building, Donkin said that as of this past week, parents for about 15% to 30% of students chose the remote-only plan.

Like school administrators across the region, Donkin said he continues to monitor the regional caseload, and has plans in place to transition the entire school to remote-only learning if necessitated by the pandemic. Even if that happens, Donkin said having a hybrid schedule in place is useful because the goal will be to offer in-person classes whenever it’s safe. “We’ve just got to be prepared to move either way,” he said.

Southern Illinois schools maintain graduation pomp in unusual circumstances

molly.parker@thesouthern.com

618-351-5079

On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

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