The roughly 4,600 students who attend Proviso Township High Schools District 209 will be back in class next school year, at least for two days out of the week.
District 209 administrators presented their recommendations during a regular meeting on July 14. The plan comes about four months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered school buildings closed in March in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, with D209 and other districts across the state switching to an e-learning model that had students learning from home.
What administrators are calling a Blended and Remote Learning Plan will entail students attending school on-site for two days a week and learning remotely from home three days a week.
“This allows students to receive in-person instruction and support while minimizing the human interactions that could spread COVID-19,” administrators explained in a board memo.
“To reduce the number of students onsite on a given day, students will be assigned to Group A or Group B. Approximately 50% of students will be assigned to Group A. The other 50% will be assigned to Group B. This will reduce class sizes to allow for social distancing.”
Group A students will be on-site in classes Monday and Tuesday and learning remotely on Wednesday and Friday, district administrators said. Group B students will be on-site Thursday and Friday while learning remotely on Monday and Wednesday.
Parents and students have the option of learning remotely Monday through Friday, without attending in-person classes. These students, who administrators designated as Group R, will be eligible for full e-learning if they pass all classes during remote learning in the spring or if they have health conditions that warrant remote learning. Administrators added that Group R students who struggle with remote learning may be required to attend on-site classes more frequently. Remote learners will get lunch, administrators said.
Administrators said that, in anticipation of a modified return to in-person instruction in the fall, they convened transition teams in April, “comprised of stakeholders from all three schools, to develop blended and remote learning re-opening scenarios based on research, Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidance, and survey data from students and parents,” according to the board memo.
The survey, which was administered in June, indicated that 65 percent of students, 71 percent of teachers and 67 percent of parents were in favor of either in-person learning or some combination of in-person and remote learning in the fall.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, Nicole Howard, D209’s assistant superintendent for Academics and Family Services, explained that the buildings will be cleaned on a regular basis, desks will be placed six feet apart and hygiene standards and protocols will be in place, among other measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the district’s campuses.
Some logistical details still need to be worked out, Howard said. For instance, procedures designed to make sure that students are not congregating in restrooms, which health experts say are particularly risky spaces when it comes to contracting COVID-19, are forthcoming.
Howard said that school starts Aug. 17, with Freshman Onsite Week scheduled for Aug. 17 – Aug. 21, Sophomore Onsite Week scheduled for Aug. 24 – Aug. 28 and Junior/Senior Onsite Week scheduled for Aug. 31 – Sept. 4.
During these onsite weeks, students will receive training in technology and safety protocols, attend classes following the A/B schedule and receive the district’s expectations for blended learning.
Administrators have stressed that both in-person and online attendance during remote learning is mandatory with few exceptions, such as illness.
During Tuesday’s meeting, D209 board President Rodney Alexander emphasized that the district’s plan is subject to change, depending on the circumstances.
“This is truly a living, breathing, growing plan,” he said. “I just want the public to know that as things change and instructions come down, this may adjust. We have a plan, but it is flexible … We’ll do our best to make sure you are notified and kept abreast of any possible changes we do not control.”
The district is planning two training sessions “on the expectations of the blended and remote model and use of related technologies” for parents. The sessions, which the district will livestream, will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 11, and at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2.