153 in 2020
District 153 Fall Reopening Plan
District 153 Reopening Plan Document DRAFT
A Letter from the Superintendent
July 31, 2020 Fall Reopening Plan
I hope this message finds your family healthy and safe and that you are managing to find some joy and relaxation during this unconventional summer.
Your schools have been a beehive of activity this summer. A small army of District 153 staff and administrators have worked diligently since May to develop plans to reopen schools this fall—now less than one month away. We are now ready to share the current sum of their hard work.
Our DRAFT reopening plan for the fall is a work-in-progress in recognition that even the best-laid plans undoubtedly will need constant tweaking and adjustment during this ever-changing pandemic. I strongly encourage you to read the plan thoroughly. Nonetheless, I have created a short presentation highlighting some of the more important points.
You’ll find the reopening plan, my plan highlights video and frequently asked questions (and answers) on the 153 in 2020 website.
- Look for an email early next week about your child’s placement in either the Virtual Learning Academy or Group A/Group B of the blended learning program.
- Class placement letters will be mailed on Friday, August 14th.
If you haven’t registered your child yet, please don’t put it off any longer. It’s important that we know how many students we have for scheduling purposes and to ensure that we have adequate staffing.
Parents should register their returning students through their Parent Portal accounts. Here is the information about creating a Parent Portal account, if you don’t already have one.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, we cannot accept paper copies of registration documents. Please scan and upload your supporting documents. Or you can upload pictures of your documents.
Countdown to the 2020-2021 school year is now 24 days! Together, we can make great things happen for our kids.
Have a wonderful weekend,
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent
July 14, 2020 FALL 2020 STUDENT ATTENDANCE REQUEST FORM
Dear Parents and Guardians,
On Monday night, the District 153 Board of Education approved our recommendation to give parents two options for their students in the 2020-21 school year. (The recording of that board meeting is now posted on our website here.)
To start the 2020-2021 school year, parents will have the option of choosing between:
- Blended learning—child attends school two days a week in classrooms of about 10-12 students and learns remotely the other three days; or
- Remote learning—child learns exclusively from home five days a week
At the end of this message is a link to the form in which you will choose the option you prefer and also provide additional information that we will need to begin scheduling. Before you choose, it may be helpful to know the following information:
- Your choice now cannot be changed to the other option until the second trimester.
- Under the blended model, siblings will be assigned to the same schedule Group A (attendance on Mondays and Wednesdays) or Group B (attendance on Tuesdays and Thursdays) unless a parent expresses another preference.
- Under the blended model, we hope families will give us maximum flexibility to schedule students. However, we will attempt to accommodate your preference for Group A or Group B, if possible. You will be asked for your reason in requesting a specific Group.
- There are a few holidays during the first trimester. (See REVISED 2020-2021 school calendar attached.) These holidays will not reduce the number of days your child receives instruction. For example, during Labor Day week, Group A students who normally would attend school on Mondays will attend on Friday instead of Labor Day Monday.
To help reduce congestion, we would encourage families who are able to transport their own children to and from school to do so. However, if your child will be using the school bus in the fall, please be aware that safety protocols will be in place including assigned seats and mandatory mask wearing.
PLEASE FILL OUT THIS FORM BY TUESDAY, JULY 21 AT 8:00 AM. You will need to fill out a form for each student in your family. If we do not receive a form by the deadline, we will assume your student will be participating in blended learning and assign them to a Group.
We realize that Tuesday may be a tight deadline given all the issues a parent must consider. We do apologize and ask for your understanding of the immense difficulties our school administrators will face scheduling over 2,000 students in two models of learning in just a few short weeks.
Please email your questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your prompt attention to our request and for your continued support as prepare for the coming school year.
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent
Dr. Scott McAlister, Assistant Superintendent
July 10, 2020
As I have previously shared, we established task force teams in late May to begin exploring teaching and learning options for the 2020-2021 school year. We sought feedback from our staff and parents on several occasions about reopening our schools. We also have formed sub-committees that include representatives from Homewood Education Association (HEA), teachers across all grade-levels, specialists, educational support staff, administrators, park district representatives, and board members. Those teams have been reviewing survey results, working on options for the next school year, establishing health and safety measures, and ensuring social/emotional learning supports for all staff and students. It has been a very busy, active summer thus far for the majority of our staff. I am so proud of all of their efforts.
Today I am writing to share an overview of our recent survey results, and our initial thoughts and direction as we continue to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.
What We Learned from the Surveys
We experienced a wonderful response to our recent survey to parents and staff. (See below.)
- concerns about students wearing masks all day
- questions about the Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday blended learning model weekly proposed schedule
- insistence on thorough cleaning
- remote learning needs to be more robust than spring
- high-needs students (IEP, EL, etc.) need more than 2 days a week in-person instruction
Task Force Recommendation to the Board of Education
I think we can all agree that our desire is to safely return to full in-person instruction on a daily basis. However, we cannot ignore that the threat of this virus remains, and we must all take prudent steps to ensure student and staff safety. At this point in time, we cannot ensure everyone’s safety and have in-person instruction every day for all students.
Due to the responses and feedback from parents and staff, I will be asking our 153 Board of Education to support and direct our task force teams:
- to continue their efforts and work collaboratively on the development of a blended learning model with students attending in-person on a regular basis (but not daily) for the foreseeable future
- to develop a simultaneous remote learning option for families that choose to keep their students at home. After discussions with staff, I believe we would be able to adequately staff a separate remote learning option.
Our instruction in the blended model and remote learning will be different than the instruction the students experienced from March 13 through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and will closely mirror full in-person expectations. We have started a frequently asked questions document on a new web page that will be updated frequently. Please understand that we all need to be agile and patient. Our plans above may change quickly since we receive updated guidance from the state and local health authorities on a regular basis. Moreover, we are all aware of spikes in COVID-19 cases in some areas of our country. Any number of events may cause us to change approaches without much advance warning.
We recognize that some of these of the plans and state requirements might be polarizing, and there may be strong opinions about the path that lies ahead of us. However, we must believe there are new and exciting possibilities for education this year, and we will continue to listen to you and be open to new ideas.
It is my hope that our mutual love of the 153 community and its children will compel us to shake off negativity and put forth our best thinking as an entire community to educate our students in the safest way possible. We recognize the urgent need to communicate with you about what to expect next school year. We do not have all the answers to specifics yet, but we hope to release a comprehensive reopening plan by July 31st.
In closing, I urge you to review our new “153 in 2020” web page for answers to some of your questions. It also contains the link you need to virtually attend Monday’s Board of Education meeting and another link to submit questions/concerns for that meeting.
Thank you for your continued support and input. Expect another communication from me next week after our school board has given us more guidance.
Parent and Staff Surveys
July 2020 Parent and Staff Survey Highlights
June 2020 Parent and Staff Survey Highlights
Answers to some of your questions:
When will students receive their teacher assignments and/or class schedules? (updated July 27)
When will we know for certain what the plan is for the fall?
If we do the Blended Learning Model, are we able to choose if our student(s) is a part of Group A (attending school on Monday and Wednesday) or Group B (attending school on Tuesday and Thursday)?
If I decide to do remote learning to start the year, can I change my mind and have my child attend school in-person?
Yes, but only at the start of a new trimester. Our class sections and staffing are being created based on the number of families who request remote instruction. In order to provide consistency in our scheduling, changes will only be allowed every 12 weeks.
Doesn’t it make more sense to have Group A attend on Monday & Tuesday, Group B attend on Thursday and Friday, with Wednesday being a day to deep clean the schools between the two groups?
My child has a medical condition that makes them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Will they be allowed to complete school in a 100% remote format?
Yes. At this point, a remote option will be made available to families who request it. A medical justification is not required to participate in the remote learning option.
I am not comfortable with my child returning to school at all. Will the district provide them with a 100% remote learning experience?
Can I choose the blended learning program for one child and the remote program for another?
About Health & Safety
What would happen if a student or staff member travels to another state with high rates of COVID-19? Will they be allowed back in school or will they have to quarantine? (updated July 27)
Are all individuals in a school building required to maintain social distancing (remain 6 feet apart) at all times?
Will social distancing be practiced on school busses?
Are all individuals in a school building required to wear a face covering at all times?
Will the school supply students with masks?
Will students and staff be screened for symptoms each day?
What will happen if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
Based on ISBE guidance, anyone with “close contact” to the individual should isolate at home and monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the date of last contact with the individual. “Close contact” means being within 6 feet of an individual for more than 15 minutes who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is suspected of having COVID-19.
Is a school required to transition to remote instruction if an individual who was in the building tests positive for COVID-19?
However, we do anticipate that there will be local, regional or statewide outbreaks prompting public health officials to order school closures. We should all be prepared to cycle between a blended education model and remote learning for some time.
Will water fountains be used/made available to students and staff? (updated July 27)
I have concerns about the air quality in the building while the coronavirus is still present. What is being done to address this issue? (updated July 27)
Can parents still volunteer in schools? (updated July 27)
How will desks get cleaned in between class periods and after lunch? (updated July 27)
How does blended and remote learning different regarding academics? (updated July 27)
How will the remote learning days be different—hopefully, better—than they were in the spring?
And thanks to federal grant money and donations from Foundation 153, Canadian National, and Woodlands Community Church, District 153 has been able to purchase enough devices so that every 3-8 student will have a laptop. Students in K-2 will be provided an iPad as needed. If students have their own devices, they can attend a class session on Zoom or Seesaw without having to worry about competing needs or schedules of family members.
Will the District 153 Remote Learning Academy be synchronous or asynchronous?
Will attendance be taken? How?
Will students be graded this year?
My child has an IEP. How will she get the services she needs?
How and what resources will be available for students with IEPs?
Will students attending in-person instruction rotate classes?
We will be limiting the movement of students between classrooms as much as possible in order increase social distancing in the hallways. This may mean that teachers move between rooms. When it is necessary for students to go to different locations for learning activities, student passing times will be staggered.
How large will remote learning class sizes be?
How many hours of screen time is expected in the remote learning program?
How do both blended and remote learning prepare our 8th graders for high school? (updated July 27)
About Specials, Extracurriculars, Clubs
Will the Blended Learning program include “specials” like music, art, STEM lab, physical education?
Will the school district’s music programs continue?
Will there be sports and other extracurricular offerings this fall? (updated July 27)
How will gym class be implemented, specifically locker room use?
About Food Service
How will lunches work?
When possible, students will eat outside or in the largest space available (gyms, cafeterias, libraries, etc.) Under Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, at no time can more than 50 people be in one area, so that is why we need to utilize the outdoors and our large spaces. Students will also be eating in classrooms. The traditional lunch period of dozens of students in the cafeteria cannot happen under Phase 4.
If the district adopts a blended or remote option, will our school fees be reduced since our children are not in attendance 5 days a week?
How often will the learning model be reevaluated if corona cases decrease or a vaccine becomes available?
The American Academy of Pediatrics say it’s more important for kids’ academic, social/emotional and mental health to be in school than physically distanced 6 feet apart. If that’s the case, why would District 153 consider a Blended Learning Model that prioritizes physical distancing over all these other considerations that affect students and families?
Will the list for school supplies be changing based on the new programming?