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Students on the road again: Pearson and Scales Mound students get behind the wheel during COVID

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SCALES MOUND–In front of Scales Mound School, two students take their seat in a black car in the hot summer sun. In the passenger seat is a familiar face, Pete Pearson, who has taught driver’s ed in the summer for Scales Mound School for a number of years and also teaches driver’s education during the school year at East Dubuque High School.

This summer, though, the car and the occupants look different than normal and the structure of a typical day has been adjusted to the impacts of coronavirus.

On a typical day, students report for their scheduled time, 30 minutes after the last group was in the car.

Before getting into the car, Pearson has to check each student’s temperature and record it in a binder.

Students with a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or symptoms of COVID-19 are not allowed to participate in behind-the-wheel instruction.

Students must wear masks while driving and the car is also equipped with a box of cleaning supplies in the trunk that is used to disinfect the car after each drive.

“We are ensuring our kids will be healthy and safe while driving,” said Pearson.

Pearson said he and the students are practicing social distancing as much as they can while in the car. They are having to follow guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Secretary of State Office during the behind-the-wheel portion of the class.

The procedures that must be followed are:

•only two students and one instructor per vehicle.

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•face coverings must be worn, unless medical conditions do not allow for a face covering.

•prohibit eating and drinking in the vehicle.

•open the windows whenever possible.

•do not make any stops during the training that are not applicable to driver’s education to reduce the amount of time in the vehicle.

•clean and disinfect the steering wheel, door handles, seat belt fastener, controls/dials that the driver would come in contact with, keys, etc. in between each behind-the-wheel session.

•conduct regular cleaning and disinfecting of the seats.

Students at Scales Mound are required to bring a mask in addition to their driving permit for each session.

Pearson isn’t sure if this will be the new normality for driver’s education and if it is something that will have to be put in place in the fall as well. He has had to adapt his standard schedule and practices to the changes that have been ordered by state and county officials. The time between each group is something that he will have to address in more detail when driver’s education class returns in the fall at East Dubuque.

“It will have to be the same thing. We will need to wear masks when we come back and that will be part of behind-the-wheel driving,” said Pearson.

Pearson said he is teaching the same way but is accommodating. Pearson also keeps students in the same group to allow for less contact among a large number of students.

“I am trying to hold it in a safe and efficient manner, without a lot of contact,” said Pearson. “We try to have the car cleaned as best we can.”

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