Board agrees on two options for reopening schools for 2020-21

Dear District 58 Families:

I hope this email finds you well and that you are having a great summer. Last evening at a special meeting, the District 58 Board of Education reviewed options for student learning for the 2020-21 school year.  After a six-plus hour meeting with much discussion, input from the public and review of a variety of scenarios, the Board approved plans for grade levels as follows:

OPTION 1

Modified Onsite Learning (in-person instruction at school)
Grades 1-6

Blended Learning (onsite and online)
Grades 7-8

Half-Day Instruction (in-person instruction at school)
PreK-Kindergarten

OPTION 2

Online Academy (includes synchronous instruction with D58 teacher and asynchronous instruction)
Grades PreK-8

The Board voted on the five-day instructional model based on guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which strongly encourages onsite learning. An online option is also available for families, per ISBE guidance.

Families will have the choice of Option 1 or Option 2 above for their child for the first trimester (First semester ends November 20.) On Monday, you will receive detailed information on each option, including Frequently Asked Questions, in order to help you choose an option for your child(ren).  The District will also hold a YouTube Live Event outlining the scenarios and health/safety safeguards for onsite instruction at 5 p.m. Wednesday, August 5. (This meeting will be archived and made available to watch at any point.)  Additional online sessions will be held for families of students in specialized programs at 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 4 and noon, Wednesday, August 5. More information and ways to access the sessions will also be communicated on Monday. 

We will ask families to make a commitment on their choice of option by 12 noon on Monday, August 10. Again, more information will be forthcoming.

I know that you have a lot of questions about what these options will look like for your child and am keenly aware of the anxiety and uncertainty that this new school year brings. Throughout this process, our very top priority has remained the health and safety of our staff and families. We are committed to a safe and healthy start to the school year with layers of safeguards in place for on-site instruction, taken from guidance from ISBE and the Illinois and DuPage County Health Departments. 

Over the past several months, the Remote Learning Task Force and working groups of more than 175 staff members have reviewed state guidance, health and safety protocols, challenges and questions and surveys from families and staff. The Board reviewed all of this information and in order to safely implement the two models agreed to the following modifications to the school calendar and day: 

  • The start to the 2020-2021 school year will be delayed. The first day of learning for students will be on Sept. 1. This will provide much needed time for our teachers to prepare for the significant change in teaching. The state is providing school districts with five extra days for training and preparation. 
  • The first two weeks of student attendance, Sept. 1-9, will be shortened with no lunch. This will allow time to acclimate students to the new routines, teach students new safety procedures and build stamina for mask wearing and a structured setting. This will also include an offsite portion so that the time learning equals five clock hours as required by ISBE. 
  • Beginning on Sept. 10, students in grades 1-8 will attend school onsite for approximately four hours, and they will not each lunch at school. They will also receive one hour of offsite instruction. This shortened day allows students breaks from the strict protocol, structured day and mask wearing and gives teachers more time for planning curriculum. The later start will allow teachers to supervise students with the new safety and distance protocols as they arrive at our buildings. 
  • When we ramp up to full onsite instruction at the elementary schools, the school day will consist of five hours with lunch. The target date for this transition is October 26. Similarly, we hope to explore the feasibility of lunch at the middle schools, with a potential increase of onsite instruction (including lunch) at the beginning of the second trimester. 
  • Kindergarten will be offered for a half-day only for approximately 2.5 hours a day and OKEEP (full day kindergarten) will be suspended for this year. 

Other highlights of the plan include:

  • For the Online Academy, students will receive both synchronous or live learning from D58 teachers for 2.5 hours a day. The other 2.5 hours of their instructional day will be asynchronous. This will be a combination of independent practice, learning with District 58 digital and curricular resources, and guided instruction via the Acellus learning platform. Work on Acellus will be monitored by District 58 staff with feedback to support the learning process. 
  • Middle School onsite learning is both onsite at the middle schools and offsite in a plan called Blended Learning. Students will attend onsite every other day from 8:30 a.m. (7:50 a.m. early bird) until 12:40 p.m. Because there are many fewer students, instruction can proceed in a similar fashion to typical middle school. Offsite instruction is provided via Zoom and will include independent practice. 
  • Kindergarten at Lester and Highland will be moved. Lester will move to Pierce Downer and Highland would move to Belle Aire, and transportation will be provided.

  • In addition, a lot of time has been spent in developing specific guidelines and health and safety protocols for onsite instruction. Just some of these safeguards are:
    • Mask wearing is required at all times, except for outdoor instruction (at 6-foot distancing) and snack and/or lunch
    • Increased sanitizing and disinfecting will be provided according to ISBE and health department guidance
    • Outside ventilation will be increased (where possible) and higher grade HVAC filters will be installed
    • Before entering the bus or school, students and staff will be required to self certify their temperature and note that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms; Additionally, staff will take temperatures of students in the classroom
    • Hand sanitizing stations will be placed in all classrooms and key areas
    • Extra PPE will be offered for staff who request it
    • The majority of class sizes will be reduced
    • Students will be placed in cohorts with little movement inside the school
    • Six-feet of distancing is required and one-way pathways and standing points will be marked
    • Only essential visitors will be permitted; No outside visitors, including parents and contractors, will be allowed unless there is an emergency

We realize that this is a challenging time for everyone and we understand that each instructional model requires sacrificing some elements of best practice. We equally recognize that a school day schedule with any modifications requires sacrifices and adjustments for each of our district families in some way.  We are committed to a path that gradually brings us back to full in-person learning safely, while maximizing our ability to meet the needs of students in a remote setting. The Board of Education will continually review how the plan is being implemented and may need to pivot if conditions change.

We are proud of the partnerships we have created with our families and community over the years. We commit to providing high-quality instruction and social-emotional supports, to creating safe and healthy learning environments, and to being strong partners with our families.

Thank you for your continued patience as we navigate these unprecedented times.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Kevin Russell
Superintendent of Schools

 

 

* This letter replaces the typical Board Brief that is sent following a Board meeting.