Sent to all D99 Staff, Students and Families on June 23, 2020
Dear District 99 Staff, Students and Families:
I hope you are doing well.
This afternoon, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released guidance for schools to support a safe transition to in-person learning in the 2020-21 school year. We just now received the state’s document along with the public. It outlines guidance about in-person learning, scheduling, transportation, wearing masks, social distancing and other safety measures. Our team will review the document as we continue to plan for the start of the 2020-21.
At the governor’s news conference this afternoon, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said that the goal of the guidance is to maximize in-person instruction. She also remarked that the fall will not be “business as usual,” and that we should all expect school to be different.
While we are hopeful to start the 2020-21 school year in person in some way on August 14, we are reviewing the official guidance from ISBE, will be participating in webinars with State leaders, discussing with other area districts, and revising protocols with local and state health departments before we finalize our plans. A cursory review of the guidance seems to emphasize in-person learning for all students to the greatest extent possible, while realizing that may not be feasible in all situations. Although the guidance has overarching ideas for schools across the state, how schools are able to respond will vary based on size, location, and the local conditions related to COVID-19.
In the meantime, we want you to know that we have been planning in advance of this guidance for three possible scenarios. It is possible that we will be in each of these scenarios at some point throughout the year based on the status of the pandemic in our area.
- Full In-Person Learning - All students return to school on a daily basis, with modifications. If we are allowed to open our schools completely, we anticipate that we would institute and follow many new protocols outlined by state and local health agencies, which every person would be required to follow while inside our buildings such as maintaining social distancing, wearing face coverings, capacity limits, symptom screenings and cleaning protocols. We are also planning for students and staff who are unable to return to school for some or all of the learning experience.
- Blended Remote Learning in Rotation - All students come in regularly, but not at the same time, in order to reduce the number of people in the buildings. In this scenario, students would be placed into groups and assigned set times or days they would be able to attend school in person. Instruction would then be split between a virtual and in-person experience. In this scenario, we would also institute new protocols as outlined above.
- Enhanced Remote Learning - All or most learning occurs virtually, if it is deemed unsafe for all or some students or staff to be in the building. (If possible, select students based on needs or curriculum might come in for specific help or experiences.) Last month, the district surveyed staff, students and families about their Remote Learning experience. We are studying the feedback in order to shape how we will improve taking attendance, grading, our curriculum, and setting expectations. Please know that one thing we’ve heard loud and clear is that everyone wants more synchronous learning and virtual contact with one another. We will be issuing a summary on what we learned from the spring in the coming weeks.
In order to create detailed plans for our schools, we are forming a District 99 2020-21 Planning Task Force that will include staff, student and parent input. If you are interested in participating as a member of the team, please click here (link is now expired).
Thank you for your continued understanding. I am confident that by working together and listening and supporting one another, we will create a positive path forward for all of our students to learn and grow in our changed world.
Dr. Hank Thiele
District 99 Superintendent