Dear District 86 Community,
On Nov. 19, members of the Recovery-Revitalization-Restore (R3) Committee provided the board of education with an update on the district’s return to school plan. This update included a recommended bell schedule for second semester that features more time for instruction, interventions, support and collaboration.
Before we delve into the specifics about this recommendation, I want to address three important topics.
During the board meeting, the administration proposed a two-week pause on in-person instruction that was based on concerns about the recent increase in staff absences, the availability of substitute teachers and our ability to maintain a continuity of instruction. The board had a lengthy discussion about the proposal, and ultimately voted 4-3 to remain in our current hybrid model because of the academic, social and emotional benefits that students derive from being in our buildings.
During the past eight months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to wrestle both personally and professionally with what it means to “do the right thing.” What we have discovered is that the challenges we are facing and decisions we must make are often as complex and complicated as the virus itself. What we have come to realize is that there are no easy answers or simple solutions when trying to navigate a global pandemic that has disrupted every aspect of our lives and left us feeling physically and mentally exhausted. What we know now is that there is no definitive “right thing” when the ripple effect of a single choice can impact the lives of hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of people in disparate and disproportionate ways.
The board and administration have and will continue to work closely and collaboratively with each other and our stakeholders to chart a course through this crisis that will enable us to meet the needs of our students, while also keeping them, our staff, our families and our community healthy and safe.
Substitute Teachers and Line of Sight Volunteers
As we shared earlier this week and have communicated throughout the school year, we are seeking individuals to serve as substitute teachers or line of sight volunteers in our buildings. At this time, we currently need nearly 70 people to serve in a line of sight capacity for varying lengths of time on a weekly basis to assist staff members who have accommodations due to medical or childcare issues, or who need to isolate or quarantine because of the virus. You can access additional information about subbing in the district (e.g., responsibilities, application process, etc.) by visiting https://bit.ly/2S6oWr5
With that said, I want to clarify that the use of volunteers aligns with the emergency amendment that the Illinois State Board of Education issued on Sept. 30, 2020. This amendment “allows schools experiencing a substitute teacher or teacher shortage or schools in which more teachers requested to work remotely to utilize volunteers to staff classrooms under the supervision of a remote teacher if a licensed individual is present in the school building.” In the case of our volunteers, they are being placed in classrooms to serve in a line of sight capacity where there is a certified teacher providing real-time instruction from home through the use of technology. They are not leading instruction or conducting lessons in those classrooms, but rather managing activities such as taking attendance, monitoring the work assigned by the teacher, etc.
In addition, as you will see further down in this communication, our proposed plan for second semester includes the addition of in-person lunch for students two days a week. In order to adhere to the guidelines about social distancing and mass gatherings, we will need to operate nine different lunch spaces at Hinsdale Central and four different lunch spaces at Hinsdale South. Each of those spaces will need to be staffed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. We thought this might be another area in which line of sight volunteers could assist us.
If you or someone you know is interested in serving as a substitute teacher or line of sight volunteer for our district, please visit http://bit.ly/2ZvTDqN
to complete the online application.
Doing Our Part
I want to echo what health officials have said about making sure that we are all doing our part (e.g., wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding mass gatherings whenever possible) to slow the spread of COVID-19. This will be particularly important in the weeks ahead as people celebrate the holidays. Below are links to additional information and guidance from local, state and national health organizations that I thought you might find helpful.
We will keep you apprised of any adjustments we need to make from an instructional or operational standpoint in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and will provide you with additional details about our plans for second semester as we get closer to winter break. In the meantime, I want to thank you for your time and attention to this update, and for your continued support of our schools and the students we serve.
Recommended Bell Schedule for Second Semester
During the past few weeks, we have been working on the development of a bell schedule for second semester that meets the needs and interests of our students and staff, and also addresses the following priorities:
- Health and safety
- Planning, preparation and collaboration
- Intervention (academic, behavioral, and social and emotional)
As part of this process, we administered a survey to all of our students that provided them with the opportunity to give feedback on a variety of topics, including several (e.g., frequency on campus, block versus traditional schedule, in-person versus remote on Wednesday and comfort level with in-person lunch) that helped guide and inform our proposed plans for the second half of the school year. Below are some of the insights and perspectives that were shared by the more than 3,100 students who took the survey.
- 62.6% said they would prefer to keep the block schedule
- 80.9% said they would prefer to keep Wednesday a remote learning day that features synchronous instruction
- 49.5% said they would be comfortable eating lunch on campus
After reviewing and discussing all of the input we received from students and staff, we created a bell schedule that offers the following:
- Increased class time that aligns with the maximum amount allowed under our current Memorandum of Understanding with the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association.
- Addition of in-person lunch, with each student cohort getting the chance to eat on campus one day per week.
- More time for passing periods (increase from 10 to 15 minutes), which will enable students to get additional help after class. It will also provide teachers, especially those who are leading three consecutive classes, with additional time to catch their breath, use the restroom, prepare for the next group of students, etc.
- Addition of office hours at school on a daily basis during which students can receive in-person interventions or support.
- Seamless shift from hybrid to remote learning should conditions warrant it.
- Ability to maintain our current instructional model - i.e., hybrid block schedule with a remote option for students who would prefer to learn from home on a full-time basis.
Below are three charts that provide greater detail about our proposed bell schedule for second semester.