Forest Park elementary school District 91 announced Jan. 4 that it will begin bringing students back to school for in-person learning beginning in February, using a four-phase plan that starts with testing in January.

The option to continue with remote-only instruction through the end of Phase 2 is being provided as well.

Parents must complete the parent response form on the district’s website at no later than Jan. 19 if they wish for their children to return to school. Failure to respond assumes the continuation of remote learning for the student.

After Jan. 15, no changes will be made to a student’s learning plan, and the student must remain in either in-person/hybrid or remote-only education through the duration of Phase 2, which will continue until it is determined by health authorities and the district that a move to the next phase is safe.

Dates for moving from one phase to another will depend on COVID-19 data and recommendations from the Illinois State Board of Education and other health authorities. According to the district, “We will move through the phases as quickly or as slowly as necessary.”

Throughout all phases of in-person learning, health and safety protocols will be followed. They include: no mixing of groups, mandatory wearing of masks, daily symptoms screening, daily temperature checks, maintenance of social distancing, and no use of water fountains, although water bottles will be permitted.

Phase 1 begins on Jan. 25, the beginning of the third quarter. Remote instruction will continue for all students, and primary students will be scheduled to come into Betsy Ross and Garfield for FastBridge benchmark assessment.

Phase 2 begins Feb. 8 and will continue until it is safe, as dictated by health authorities, to move into Phase 3.

In Phase 2, students will be “phased in by grade level,” coming into the classrooms on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings only for reading/ELA, math, social studies and science. A Zoom option will be available for students participating remotely.

Afternoons will consist of remote special classes at all grade levels.

Students will return in a staggered approach. On Feb. 8, Kindergarten, third grade and sixth grade will begin coming in three mornings a week. On Feb. 16, first grade, fourth grade and seventh grade will start. And on Feb. 22, second grade, fifth grade and eighth grade will begin. (The plan for preschool will be communicated to parents by the school.)

Since it is only a half day, no lunch will be served at school, but lunches will be available for students to bring home with them.

During Phase 2, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be full remote instruction for all students, and the schedule and instruction will be the same as it currently is.

Transportation will not be provided, unless explicitly stated in an IEP.

Students whose families opt for the remote learning option will attend remotely all five days.

The Howard Mohr Community Center and the Park District of Forest Park will continue to provide childcare and remote learning supervision.

During Phase 3, the start-date to be determined, in-person learning will still be mornings-only but increased from three to five days a week. At this point, remote instruction will no longer be offered as an option during morning in-person school.

During Phase 4, all students will return to full day in-person learning, five days a week. No remote learning option will be available. Transportation will resume, and extracurricular activities will be reinstituted.

Story updated to reflect extended parent/guardian response deadline from Jan. 13 to Jan. 19.