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153 in 2020

District 153 Fall Reopening Plan

A Letter from the Superintendent

Dear Parents and Guardians:
 

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.

 

Coming Up

 

  • 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.

 

Last Day to Register Your Child for the 2020-2021 School Year is Friday, August 7th

 

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

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 153in2020@hsd153.org.

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to our request and for your continued support as prepare for the coming school year.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent

Dr. Scott McAlister, Assistant Superintendent

Dear Students, Families, and Staff,
 
I want to begin by offering my sincere thanks to all of our students, staff, parents, and community members who through extraordinary efforts and unselfish behavior helped us succeed over the course of the last few months. While certainly not without our bumps, frustrations, and anxiety, we are now at a point in our journey that we need to set a new path for teaching and learning for this fall.

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.)

Five collective themes/concerns clearly emerged from the survey’s comments:
  • 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:
  1. 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
  2. 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.
We will also be working closely with the Park District and other community organizations to provide support and care to families that need it on their “remote days.” We will have an updated Remote Learning Plan ready to implement for all students if the State moves back to Phase 3 in its virus response and schools are ordered back to all remote learning.

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.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent

Parent and Staff Surveys

Parents

 
parent questions

Staff

staff question
 

Parent

 
parent question 6
question 5
 
question 3&4

Staff

staff question 1
staff questions 2,3,4
 
 

Answers to some of your questions:

This list will be updated often with the latest information we have.

About Schedules

This will be sent to families on or before August 14.
At its July 13th meeting, the Board of Education approved the recommendation of the planning task forces. Parents will be able to choose between a 100% remote learning program or a blended learning program for their child(ren). Please refer to the Superintendent's Letter of July 14, 2020 at the top of this web page for more information. 
We will accommodate these requests as best we can. 

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.

This was certainly considered as the Blended Model was researched. Educationally, we feel the highest benefit comes when a student sees their teacher on one day, has time to process the in-person instruction and complete work the next day, and then sees their teacher again the following day. If students had back-to-back in-person days then they would not have the off-day to process, and they would then go five days without seeing a teacher at all.

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.

Yes. Please see the question and answer directly above.
Yes

About Health & Safety

At this time, a 14-day quarantine is recommended for person entering suburban Cook County from states with high rates of COVID-19 infections. The Cook County Department of Public Health updates the list of states on this list each Tuesday. The current list can be found by clicking here.
ISBE directs schools to provide 6-foot distancing “as much as possible.” Desks will be spaced as far apart as possible based on how many students are in each room. Lunch and passing periods will look much different, with an emphasis on keeping students apart and minimizing student movement if possible.
As much as possible. No more than 50 individuals may be on a bus at one time. All individuals on a bus must wear a face covering, and we will allow as much space as possible between each student. Students from the same households may be required to sit together.
Yes. As required by IDPH, except while eating and during band, face coverings must be worn at all times in our schools, even when social distancing is maintained. This rule applies to ALL adults and students. Please also know that we will do our best to find time to get our students outside, where masks can be removed so long as a 6-foot distance is maintained. For the safety of everyone, this rule will be strictly enforced. Students who consistently violate the mask policy will be placed in remote learning.
Parents will be responsible for supplying masks for their own children. Those masks will go with students each day.
ISBE requires that schools screen for temperatures or have families “self-certify” that their students are temperature-free each day. We are developing procedures for how this will be done for those who attend in-person.

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.

No. Only those individuals with close contact with someone who tested positive or who is suspected of having COVID-19 are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The school will provide remote instruction to students who are self-quarantining, if they are well enough to engage in learning. Teachers and staff who are self-quarantining may continue to work remotely if they are well enough to do so.

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.
Water fountains will be turned off/not available but we will have bottle fillers in each building. We encourage students and staff to bring their own bottle to hydrate each day.
We are doing several things to ensure the highest quality air in our buildings. First, we are changing all of our air filters and our HVAC units will be checked on a weekly basis throughout the year. Second, we will introduce fresh air from the outside by opening classroom windows and by opening our rooftop air dampers to the extent recommended by our mechanical systems engineers. Third, the district has purchased atomizers that will be used to disinfect classrooms and washrooms each night.
Given the need for safety, we are limiting guests into our building to those who have the need for essential, face-to-face meetings. Thus, we will not have volunteers until further notice.
We will be providing teachers with bottles of cleanser that can be sprayed on desks so students can wipe their own areas with clean paper towel.

About Instruction

The biggest difference between the two is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with teachers under the blended model. The remote experience is 100% through the computer. While both models will have instruction/assistance through the computer with teachers and assistants, we are excited about the opportunity to get our students back with their teachers.
Based on parent feedback on our May survey, we knew we needed more time for students to connect with classmates, more direct instruction by teachers, and consistent schedules and platforms. Our remote learning plan sets forth daily/weekly schedules that includes times for direct instruction, online small group work with a teacher or an assistant and independent work time. The schedules focus on core content by grade level.

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.
We are currently working on daily schedules for students to be able to have synchronous direct instruction with their remote learning teachers and to collaborate with other students. If a child is not able to log on at the scheduled time, he/she will be able to view recorded lessons and complete individual work another time. Learning activities may include but are not limited to direct instruction via recorded video or a synchronous platform, remote small group work via breakout room and, independent/flexible student work time.
Yes. An all-class live zoom meeting (synchronous) is scheduled every morning at the regular school start time for Virtual Learning Academy students and blended learning students on their days at home. This is when attendance will be taken.
ISBE’s original recommendations for remote learning in March of 2020, included a “do no harm” grading policy that is longer in place. Therefore, we will be returning to traditional grading policies and make modifications as necessary.
ISBE guidance provides that districts identify students for whom additional days of in-person attendance might be beneficial. Examples of students include, but are not limited to, those with IEPs and English Language Learners. If anything other than a 5-day attendance week is recommended then we will work to identify students who may be asked to attend additional days in person each week.
We are committed to providing the accommodations to which students are entitled, although it might be through remote platforms from time-to-time. Our Student Support Services Department will be sending out more detailed information that speaks to this specific topic in the next few days/weeks.

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.

Remote class sizes will be dependent upon the total number of families and the amount of staff. Currently, our best estimate is about 20 students per class.
We are required to have 5 hours of instruction a day. Granted, not all of that will be live screen time. While the details are not finalized, it is safe to say it will be a combination of live Zoom and asynchronous recordings.
Both models place an increased emphasis on self-direction and self-motivation, skills that students will need to be successful in high school. In addition, if the high school is still teaching remotely one year from now, then it would be beneficial for our students to experience these modes of learning while in middle school.

About Specials, Extracurriculars, Clubs

There will be specials on some of the in-class days and on the at-home days. At this time, we are not sure which ones will be in- person and which ones will be on the remote days. The schedule will be created based on safety, staffing and educational priorities. We will be working on finalizing schedules for each grade level in the next few weeks.
We love our music programs! They will continue although they are unlikely to occur in person given the contagious nature of the performances involved.
The IESA has canceled all fall sports, including cross country, baseball and softball. The decision on girls and boys basketball is expected to be made within a few weeks. Other, non-athletic extracurriculars will not be held until further notice. Once the school year is underway there may be an opportunity to resume some of these activities.
Physical education will be incorporated into our learning programs in some capacity, although we do not yet know if it will be in-person or remote. We do know that locker rooms will not be used.

About Food Service

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.

Other

While we understand the concern about reducing fees, the fees will remain the same. School fees are paid to help cover the costs of items such as textbook rental, technology, and online curriculum. For example, the district has adopted a new Language Arts curriculum this year and all students- regardless of if they learn from home or at school- will use that curriculum. Since all students will engage with the same materials regardless of their locale, school fees will remain the same.
Our goal has, and will continue to be, to get our kids back full-time when it is safe to do so. To that end, we will keep a continual eye on the conditions, and if it is safe to bring our students back, we will do so.
District 153 agrees that in-person instruction is best for a child’s development--academically, socially and emotionally. That’s why we are proposing a blended education model for those who want it in addition to a 100% remote learning option. We feel the blended model offers the best balance of educational benefit and safety for both students and staff.
At this point we will not be changing the supplies list, although it is likely that not all supplies will be needed this year. We recognize that disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are still scarce. Although we appreciate any additional supplies from our families, our district vendors have been able to keep us supplied with cleaning items. Parents should just do what they can. Once our plans are finalized, we will ask that staff communicate their specific supplies needs to families.

FEDERAL AND STATE GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS

BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING July 13, 2020

Click below to view the recording of the July 13th Board of Education meeting. Enter PASSWORD: 7W.^*@j0
click here for recording of July 13 meeting