Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt reported that 98 percent of parents had responded to the district’s questionnaire and had selected a learning choice for their students to start the 2020-21 school year.
This questionnaire is essential to planning the reopening of school for students on August 24. Based on those responses, 22 percent of the district’s students enrolled in the Remote Learning Academy, 77 percent will attend in-person learning and 1 percent un-enrolled. Principals will contact those parents who have not yet responded. Each principal began work on creating classes and assigning teachers based on parent responses. Teachers will either work with in-person classes, Remote Learning Academy classes, or possibly a combination.
Dr. Hewitt said the district developed its plan for full-time in-person or full-time remote learning by following the guidelines published June 23 by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public health guidelines, “Starting the 2020-21 School Year,” which states the following:
- “Schools and districts are encouraged to provide completely in-person instruction for all students in Phase 4, provided that the school is able to comply with the capacity limits and implement social distancing measures.”
- “ISBE strongly encourages schools and districts to provide in-person instruction for all students, especially those under the age of 13, to avoid the need for child care and exposure to additional individuals.”
- “ISBE strongly encourages in-person instruction for students to the greatest extent possible while keeping health and safety as the number one priority.”
Each school’s capacity to socially distance students and follow public health guidelines was evaluated as the district developed its reopening plan. The fully remote option is available to any family who decided full-time in-person learning was not the right choice for their family.
Administration and staff continue to make progress on all of the tasks associated with reopening schools. Three task forces composed of teachers, administrators, support staff and school nurses are working on many details relating to health and safety, teaching and learning and Young Explorers. Also, several teacher teams and departments are meeting or participating in professional development on curriculum, technology and social-emotional learning.
Due to the increased demands on the school nursing offices, the board approved creating three health aide positions, one for each elementary school. The junior high already has a health aide in addition to the nurse.
Preparing for School Closures
Dr. Hewitt also outlined scenarios that would cause intermittent school closures, including:
- moving from Phase 4 to Phase 3 or lower, as outline in the state’s Restore Illinois plan, due to regional health conditions;
- a declaration by the governor based on other rationale;
- District 28 schools are not able to secure enough substitute teachers to cover teacher absences;
- a recommendation or requirement to close schools by the Cook County Department of Public Health or the Illinois Department of Public Health (for example, due to a localized outbreak);
- unforeseen issues or obstacles.
Teachers and students are preparing at the beginning of the year with professional development for teachers and student lessons on tech tools that will be used if schools must close.