A student reacts to e-learning decision after flood damages East Peoria Community High School

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The first day of school is now August 20. Students can expect to follow the same schedule constructed for in-class learning.

EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Just when students thought they were getting back to some normalcy, East Peoria Community High School’s superintendent retracts her decision to start in-class learning, but it’s not because of COVID-19.

A letter sent to students and parents Tuesday explains that flooding from severe weather last week destroyed flooring in part of the building, exposing students and staff to toxic minerals.

“We recognize that no plan will satisfy everyone and every plan has challenges to overcome,” EPCHS Superintendent Marjorie Greuter wrote in her letter. “Please know that our decisions have been made with the health and safety of our students and staff as our first and foremost concern, followed closely by providing a robust educational experience.”

Months of isolation and e-learning has students eager to get back into a classroom.

“I want to get back to so bad. I miss hanging out with friends, walking to class together, goofing off. I just miss it,” EPCHS student Bailey Campbell said.

Bailey is going into her junior year. She said she was looking forward to seeing her friends and teachers on August 14. But because of the July 15 flooding, part of her school flooded with 4 inches of rain and mud.

To fix the damages, restoration crews will need to get rid of harmful materials including asbestos. That will take two to three months to repair.

“It’s difficult because a lot of us got our hopes up. We were like ‘oh we going to go back in school’. but since this flood happened were like ‘what’s going on,'” Bailey said.

Bailey said she misses traditional high school, adding e-learning is difficult and isn’t ideal for someone who needs to be in a classroom to retain information.

“But with the e-learning that we did back in March and April, it was hard to get in touch with the teachers so a lot of us was struggling and we couldn’t adjust to it in the amount of time we had,” Bailey said.

Greuter also adds, “And that remote learning is going to look very different than it did in the spring,” she said. “It will be much better. We have had a much longer time to plan for it now. So it will look different. It will be better for the kids. Teachers will be better versed to do it effectively.

While two to three months of e-learning is unexpected, the superintendent said these repairs are necessary.

“Students, staff, people’s safety is the most important thing for use,” Greuter said. “And we will want to provide a great education too. So those are the two things that guided our thought process through all of this and we just hope we can get kids back in the building as soon as we can.”

Bailey said she is hopeful this school year.

“EP’s strong. We are a strong community so we will get through it,” Bailey said.

The first day of school is now August 20. Students can expect to follow the same schedule constructed for in-class learning. Once the repairs are complete — the plan is for students to return to the classroom.

You can read Greuter’s full email here.

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