The 2020/2021 school year at District 91 will most likely begin with remote instruction rather than in-person classes, according to a May 7 memo from Superintendent Lou Cavallo in which he discussed Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois, the five-phased plan to re-open the state.

“The District 91 Board of Education has not yet adopted an official calendar for the 2021 school year. Our initial plan to begin school on August 24 is on hold until we know more about when we will be able to open. It is likely that it will be past that date,” said Cavallo.

In his memo, Cavallo referenced what needed to happen in Illinois before schools would be allowed to open once more based on Restore Illinois.

Restore Illinois is, according to the official document, “guided by health metrics and with distinct business, education, and recreation activities characterizing each phase. This is an initial framework that will likely be updated as research and science develop and as the potential for treatments or vaccines is realized.”

In his memo, Cavallo acknowledged the likelihood of students losing academic ground. He said the district is “planning for every contingency” since “school will certainly look different than it did before the pandemic.”

Improvements to remote learning will continue to be made, and a learning loss committee has been assembled “to plan for any learning loss due to the pandemic.” The district is planning for remote instruction over the summer “as well as what instruction will look like when we are able to return.”

There will be changes, said Cavallo, to operations, such as registration, transportation and building usage. Additionally, building modifications and cleaning/disinfecting protocols are being examined.

And, addressing emotional and social needs of the students, Cavallo said, “We are planning for ways to provide additional social and emotional support to students and families during this difficult time.”

Restore Illinois, announced on May 5, divides the state into regions, so different parts of the state may experience re-opening at different times. The five phases are Rapid Spread, Flattening, Recovery, Revitalization, and Illinois Restored.  

According to the plan document, “To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May.”

Schools in Illinois will not open until their region is in Phase 4, Revitalization.

But all regions in Illinois are still in Phase 2, which began on May 1 with Pritzker’s modified stay-at-home order.

And it’s hard to predict when a region will move from Phase 2 to Phase 3, let alone to Phase 4, where it needs to be before schools can reopen.

In order for a region to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3, several goals must be reached:

  • The region must be at or under a 20 percent positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period.
  • The region must be stable or decreasing in hospital admissions for COVID-19 illness for 28 days.
  • There must be available surge capacity of at least 14 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators.

Additionally, testing must be available for all patients, health care workers, first responders, people with underlying conditions, and residents and staff in congregate living facilities. Contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis must begin.

To move from Phase 3 to Phase 4 will require additional availability of testing and tracing.

During Phase 4, when schools will be allowed to reopen, along with restaurants and bars, “face coverings and social distancing” will still be “the norm.”

As Cavallo said in his memo, “We now know what metrics will be used by the state to reopen and that the metrics will be applied by region — not the entire state at once. Therefore, some schools in other parts of the state may open before we do.”

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