Return to School 2021 Plan
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the data "check point" dates for a possible return to school?
What were the results of the parent survey on Dec. 4th?
(*NEW* 11-25-20) Is District 153 thinking about modifying the plan to minimize class roster changes?
Yes. In response to parent concerns about changing teachers mid-year, we are considering this idea: having the majority of our core K-5 teachers teach an in-person AM section and a PM remote section.
This way, regardless of which option you choose your child has a greater chance of remaining with his/her current teacher. Each student, regardless of the learning option chosen, will receive a similar amount of live direct instruction in the major core content areas and a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction during the other half of their day.
We will know more about the feasibility of this idea after we have all the data from the parent survey on Dec. 4th.
Why five, half-days instead of the every other day, full-day plan?
There are pros and cons to all of the models we researched, and we realize that the AM/PM model has challenges, too. However, one of the biggest concerns with any return-to-school plan is the possibility of the virus being transmitted in school. We are confident that our safety protocols will greatly mitigate the likelihood of this happening in school, but the greatest vulnerability for this occurring is when students are eating- and thus not wearing masks. As the committees looked at half-day versus full-day plans, the concern of having masks removed for extended periods kept coming up. The only plan that ensured this will not happen on-campus is the AM/PM model.
The other concern that was consistently raised by teachers was the possibility of not seeing their students every day. Teachers expressed that only seeing students every other day (as an A/B model would do) would not provide for consistent enough reinforcement of concepts and that seeing them daily was preferential.
Given these two primary considerations, the AM/PM model became the preferred model for all three schools.
Why do we only have until Dec. 4 to decide?
There is a great deal of work that needs to be completed by our administrative team as we look at our overall staffing needs based on the results of our families’ preferences for remote or in-person learning. In order to be ready by mid-January, we need as much lead-time as possible to get this task completed well.
*Revised 12-1-20* Will my child’s teacher change?
Due to concerns about students being placed with a new teacher, our revised plan would minimize class roster changes at Willow and Churchill Schools. Please know that we will do all that we can to minimize disruptions for students and staff.
Why are we not allowed to change our mind?
The amount of time and effort required to provide for in-person learning is considerable, starting with looking at our staffing needs throughout the district based on the number of families who desire in-person learning. Once these changes are made, we need to devote our attention to providing the best learning for all of our students- whether remote or in-person. If changes were allowed to be made at-will, it would cause an endless cycle of class schedule changes and class overcrowding- neither of which is manageable or desirable.
What are the metrics you will use to make the decision on if it is safe to return to in-person learning?
There are four primary considerations that would lead us to remain in remote instruction on January 21:
Once we return to in-person instruction, what metrics will you use as a basis for returning to remote learning for all students?
*Revised 12-7-20* When will the decision be made regarding the January 21 return to in-person instruction?
We will review current metrics and notify students and staff of our decision no later than January 7, 2021.
If we cannot return on January 21, then we will review the metrics again for a possible return date of February 1 (decision to be made no later than Jan. 19).
If we cannot return on February 1, then we will review the metrics again for a possible return date of February 16 (decision to be made no later than February 2).
If we cannot return on February 16, then we will review the metrics again for a possible return date of March 8 (decision to be made no later than February 22).
If we have not returned to in-person instruction by March 8 then we will remain in remote instruction for the remainder of the school year.
If my student is in-person and then has to quarantine for 14 days how will they receive their education?
Under these circumstances, parents will choose one of two options:
- Have their student attend classes with students in the remote learning program.
- Have assignments sent home by their in-person teacher.
A Letter from the Superintendent
December 1, 2020
Parents and Guardians,
I just wanted to follow up on my email of 11-25.
Attached is a revised “Return to School” document that reflects our current thinking about returning students to school in the new year. Please review carefully as it contains important information.
Still Awaiting Parent Survey Responses
The current numbers from our parent survey continue to suggest that we will be able to offer a hybrid learning option while minimizing or eliminating the need to change class rosters at Willow and Churchill Schools.
Unfortunately, we only have responses for less than 800 of our nearly 1,900 students. If you haven’t already done so, I implore you to choose a learning model for your child as soon as possible. The deadline is THIS FRIDAY at 1:00 PM.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that we have complete data to implement any plan to return students and staff to school. It is especially important to have parent responses for James Hart students. Due to the unique nature of middle school schedules (changing classes, honor classes, etc.), James Hart administrators cannot begin the task of revising instruction until they know their numbers.
Board of Education Meeting Monday, Dec. 7
The school board will be asked to approve our revised plan at its meeting this Monday. The meeting will be virtual on Zoom. Check our website in the next day or two for the link, if you care to listen in.
Parent/Teacher Conferences Thursday and Friday
Don’t forget that there is no remote learning on Thursday and Friday for parent/teacher conferences.
Holiday Blues in the Time of COVID: Dec. 9
I think many of us are experiencing some not-so-typical feelings this holiday season. Homewood PTA is hosting an information session titled, “Holiday Blues in the Time of COVID,” at its general meeting on Wed., Dec. 9th at 7:00 PM. We encourage you to attend this Zoom event to get the support and coping strategies you many need in the coming weeks. More here.
Finally, you can find answers to all kinds of questions on the Remote Learning Central section of our webpage and more information specifically related to our Return to School plan here. I encourage you visit often.
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent
November 25, 2020
Dear 153 Families,
Thank you for your prompt response to our parent survey regarding your child’s learning choice for the 2nd semester.
As we continue to refine our plan, we have listened to concerns expressed by some parents and staff that changing teachers mid-year is not desirable. We also have been carefully reviewing the responses to the recent survey asking parents to choose a learning option for their child. Given the current numbers, we feel we may be able to modify our tentative 2021 Return to School Plan to minimize class roster changes at Willow and Churchill. Unfortunately, regardless of the plan, there may be some teacher changes due to multiple factors known and unknown. However, we believe this tweak to our plan will allow us to have a greater chance for students and teachers to stay together.
You should still continue to choose the best learning pathway for your child regardless of what the final plan is or if a teacher might change .I can’t promise anything at this point, but if possible, we will propose a final plan to the School Board that minimizes teacher class roster changes.
The modification being considered is to have the majority of our core K-5 teachers teach an in-person AM section and a PM remote section. This way, regardless of which option you choose, your child has a greater chance of remaining with his/her current teacher. Each student, regardless of the learning option chosen, will receive a similar amount of live direct instruction in the major core content areas and a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction during the other half of their day.
As we have discussed previously, there is not a perfect solution due to the COVID-19 health restrictions and our priority to reduce risk for students and staff. However, as stated above, we believe this modification gives us the best opportunity to keep most kids with their current teacher.
James Hart will review their return to school plan based on the numbers of students choosing in-person learning.
We will continue to tweak our plan so that it is the best possible solution for our school community. We cannot pass up the opportunity to see as many kids and teachers stay together. I think it clearly demonstrates our willingness to be educational partners with you and adjust plans when it benefits our students and teachers.
If you have completed the survey already and decide to change your choice based on this modification, please contact the school office for assistance. You will have until December 4th at 1:00 p.m. to make any changes.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving—and please click here to complete the survey by Dec. 4th!
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent
Nov. 23rd Board of Education Meeting Video and Presentation
November 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