ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) -- John Heiderscheidt is in charge of safety and security for 39,000 students in the northwest suburbs, which means he regularly Inspects the schools in District U-46 in Elgin to determine if they are prepared for emergencies.
"The health departments have already pre-selected schools they might need. And we will help with whatever's needed," he said.
Heiderscheidt said they have already determined that South Elgin High School's gym could serve in a number of different functions. It could be a place to put nursing tables where they could administer tests, or even house hospital beds. Patients could line up in the long hallways.
The district has some experience with situations like this. At Larkin High School in 2009, at the height of the H1N1 or "swine flu" outbreak, they set up to give mass vaccinations. It is a very different function from educating students.
"At this point our job has shifted dramatically. We're no longer about providing public education. Our priority is the safety and well-being of our family," said U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders.
Sanders said four of the district's five high schools could potentially be used for health purposes. U-46, the second largest school district in the state, got a survey from the state asking about facilities and preparedness. Schools tend to offer the largest public spaces, which could be essential in the event that hospitals are overwhelmed.
"We're dusting off those plans in case we're needed," said Heiderscheidt.
School district officials are hoping the halls will be bustling with students again very soon, but they say if the health department does need to use this facility, they're ready.
Illinois Coronavirus: Elgin schools prepared for use by health officials to combat virus