Remote Learning 2020-21
Questions about your student's remote learning? First, contact your child's teacher.
Still questions? Then contact your child's principal.
Health-related questions or concerns? Contact your school nurse.
Click below for:
Surveys and Communications
Letter from the Superintendent, Nov. 20, 2020
After much internal discussion and consideration, District 153 intends to offer parents a hybrid program for their student(s) in January, in addition to a full remote option. The attached document provides much more information about our plans, including sample schedules for both options, starting sometime in the new year. Please review it carefully.
There will be a presentation about the plan at Monday’s Board of Education meeting. If you care to listen, the meeting is on Zoom. Click here for more information.
You will have until 1:00 PM, Friday, December 4, to use the form link at the end of this mail to choose either the new hybrid program or continue with remote learning through the end of the school year.
Illinois has just reverted to Tier 3 resurgence mitigations, and COVID-19 rates are skyrocketing across the country. The ironic timing of our plan is not lost on anyone. However, we wish to be ready when the situation improves.
Remote learning has been working well in District 153. Despite the occasional technical glitch, we are proud of the remote learning program implemented in District 153 in response to the pandemic. For the most part, students are engaged and learning. Nonetheless, remote learning is just not the same as the traditional in-person classroom. We are compelled to at least try to give our students as many of those in-the-classroom academic and social benefits as possible, even during a global pandemic.
Since October, District 153 has safely returned small groups of students to our buildings through our Facilitated Distance Learning Academy. Our staff has practiced health and safety protocols over the past few weeks, stockpiled necessary PPE, and received additional training.
Moreover, COVID-19 research and data (here is a good article) doesn’t seem to show that schools—especially elementary schools—are places of significant coronavirus transmission.
Obviously, if the virus remains uncontrolled into January, we will have no choice but to continue remote learning for all students. However, if cases improve significantly in January, District 153 believes we can return to some in-person learning, while also offering a full remote option for those families that want it. Our plan contains back-up dates or “checkpoints” to reevaluate local COVID data and begin the hybrid program later, if necessary.
In-Person Plan Parameters
Please refer to the attached return-to-school plan for greater detail.
- Students attend Monday-Friday.
- Students would attend in-person either in the morning (A-K) or afternoon (L-Z) based on the first letter of their last name and learn remotely the other half of the day. Unfortunately, parents will not be able to request a morning or afternoon schedule.
- To enhance safety, lunches will not be eaten onsite at any building. Students will be offered a free grab-and-go sack lunch to eat at home.
The Selection Process: What Parents Should Keep in Mind
You will have until Friday, December 4th to choose either the hybrid program for your student(s) or continue with remote learning. Here are four issues to keep in mind:
- This is an unchangeable commitment until the end of the school year. Assigning classrooms and creating student schedules for two separate instructional models is a herculean task. Therefore, please remember that once you commit to a program you will not be allowed to change your mind.
- If you choose the hybrid option, you will not be allowed to request an AM or PM schedule. We will adhere strictly to the alphabet assignments. However, we will try to keep family members on the same schedule if those family members have different last names.
- Regardless of the option you choose, your child’s class assignment is likely to change. Staffing reassignments will be needed to accommodate both programs. Your selection should be based on the option most appropriate for your child and family regardless of the teacher he/she might have.
- The HF Park District is working to create a childcare program to complement the new hybrid program. Contact Amanda Gaus agaus@hfparks or 708-957-0300) if you are interested.
Returning to All-Remote Learning
District 153 would return all students to remote learning under the following conditions:
- A stay-at-home order from the Governor
- In absence of state orders, dramatically increasing local COVID rates that constitute an unacceptable risk to staff and students as determined by the Board of Education and district administrators
- An inability to adequately staff classrooms due to high absenteeism/quarantines/lack of substitute teachers
We will be launching an online dashboard in January to keep you informed about the numbers of District 153 staff and students infected and/or quarantined.
Post-Holiday “Safety Timeout”
COVID rates are surging now. Holiday travel and out-of-town guests will likely make this bad situation worse. (District 153 urges you to carefully consider your Thanksgiving and Winter Break plans. We hope you’ll find these holiday safety tips issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health helpful.)
After winter break, all our students will return to remote learning on Jan. 4th. The earliest our hybrid program would begin is Jan. 21st. This will provide a two-week “safety timeout” after the winter break. We ask our District 153 families to take this two-week “timeout” seriously. We are asking you to be especially vigilant about wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining physical distancing and limiting social interactions.
Our collective actions in the coming weeks will determine whether we are able to welcome students and staff back into our buildings in January.
Finally, I cannot thank our families enough for the love and support you have shown this school year. Please stay safe and healthy, District 153 needs every one of you! And please enjoy the Thanksgiving break.
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent
Results from Staff and Parent Surveys, September 2020
Letter from the Superintendent and School Board President Aug. 15, 2020
Dear District 153 Community:
We are deeply saddened and frustrated to have to tell you that, after careful consideration, District 153 will be starting the school year on Monday, August 31st (not August 24th) with all our students learning remotely from home.
A couple of days ago, school districts received updated health and safety guidance pertaining to reopening schools from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health. These new guidelines are unattainable for us at this time and will necessitate additional planning and preparation. In addition, we are seeing a worrisome increase in COVID-19 cases in nearby communities. Therefore, we are going to adjust our reopening plan to remote learning for all students until such time that we can meet the revised safety measures and ensure it is safe for staff and students to return to our buildings.
We will continue our planning with staff next week and will incorporate two additional teacher planning days during the week of August 24th. The first scheduled day for all students to begin remote learning is now Monday, August 31st. Device distribution scheduled for August 18-20 will be postponed. We will send information about the rescheduled dates soon.
We understand that our revised plan will be a hardship for at least some of our families. We, too, are frustrated by the late release of these new rules, and we are so disappointed that we will be unable to see our students in person on the 24th.
Thank you for your patience as we carefully review this new guidance and track local cases to ensure we can safely have students and staff return as soon as possible.
Please stay tuned for further updates by email and on our website.
HSD153 Board of Education President
Dr. Dale E. Mitchell
CHALLENGES POSED TO DISTRICT 153 BY IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) GUIDANCE released on August 13, 2020
New IDPH Guidance: If a student is sent home with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, then all their siblings/household members must be quarantined as well for 14 days.
Challenge to D153: The implications of this new guidance pose real challenges for us in trying to staff our building. Any staff member whose child or family member displays symptoms would be out of work for a minimum of 10 school days.Finding enough substitute teacher coverage will be made much more difficult as a result of this new guidance.
New IDPH Guidance: All students and staff sent home with COVID-19 symptoms should be diagnostically tested and should remain home until they receive their test results.
Challenge to D153: Many of the symptoms for COVID-19 ( cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and diarrhea, for example) are symptoms of conditions that our school nurses see on a daily basis and are indicative of other illnesses such as allergies and the common cold. The number of students and staff that would be required to stay home under this new guidance would create real challenges for providing continuity in student learning.
New IDPH Guidance: School nurses performing evaluations of students and staff for COVID-19, as well as custodians cleaning rooms with suspected COVID-19 cases, should wear enhanced PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), including eye protection, gloves, gown and a fit-tested N-95 mask.
Challenge for D153: We have been committed to providing our staff with recommended PPE to ensure their safety. The requirement of a fit-tested N-95 mask is part of the new guidance released just this past week and finding these masks—much less getting them properly fitted—is a huge obstacle that makes it impossible to open our schools at this time.
New IDPH Guidance: “Close contact” is now defined as being within six feet of someone with COVID symptoms for more than 15 total minutes over the course of the day.
Challenge for D153: From the beginning of the outbreak, a person would be quarantined if they had “close contact” with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or was suspected of having COVID-19. Previously, “close contact” meant being within six feet of someone with COVID symptoms for more than 15 consecutive minutes. The new guidance released last week now creates a huge logistical challenge for schools in monitoring the total number of minutes individuals may have interacted with someone suspected of having COVID-19. For example, at James Hart we would need to add up potential contact minutes not only during a variety of different classrooms but also during passing periods and the bus. This new guidance will dramatically increase the number of students and staff who will be quarantined, making continuity of learning a real challenge.
New IDPH Guidance: Contact tracing will be conducted by the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH), while schools provide assistance by identifying all close contacts with someone who tests positive or is suspected of having COVID-19.
Challenge for D153: This is the first mention that schools will bear any responsibility in contact tracing. The guidance even suggests that schools document assigned seats and take pictures of classrooms to assist the CCDPH. This is something completely new and we have not had an opportunity to discuss with staff how to possibly keep track of all the individuals with whom a student might come into contact. We also have grave concerns about the ability of the CCDPH to contact trace, as they are understaffed and have been very slow to respond this summer when schools have not been in session. That will only get worse once students and staff return to classes.
Recommendations to the Board of Education re: Remote Learning Sept. 14, 2020