illinois schools

Illinois Schools Reopening: Districts Release Fall Plans as Coronavirus Pandemic Continues

Many Chicago-area schools are offering families a choice to allow students to return to in-person learning part-time, or stay fully remote through the fall term

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Several Illinois school districts have released their reopening plans for the fall, with new options and public health guidance as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The state created guidelines for schools as part of phase four of its “Restore Illinois” reopening plan. Under those state requirements, students will be limited to gatherings of fewer than 50 individuals, extra sanitation measures will be required and all students age 5 or older will be required to wear facial coverings.

However, Illinois' regulations specify that each district is required to come up with its own individual plan for returning to class.

Here's a look at some of the plans laid out by districts in the Chicago area, many looking to return to in-person instruction in some form for the first time since March, when all schools across the state shifted to solely remote learning.

This list is not intended to be comprehensive for all schools in the area or across Illinois, but rather a look at some of the newly released plans. For the latest updates specific to your community, please contact your school district directly or visit its website.

Naperville Community Unit School District 203

Naperville Community Unit School District 203 will offer two options: the "hybrid model" and the "online academy," Supt. Dan Bridges said in a letter to the school community.

Beginning Aug. 20, the hybrid model will be a combination of in-person instruction and virtual learning, the district said, allowing for approximately half of the student population to return to campus for parts of the week in smaller groups. Students will be placed in an A/B rotation according to last names, with either group attending in-person classes on alternate days, according to the district.

The online academy will be entirely remote, with a combination of live teacher instruction and self-paced activities, District 203 said, adding that the coursework is "designed to be more rigorous and offer more live learning opportunities than the remote learning period from the spring of 2020."

Students who enroll in this option must remain in it for the entirety of the term, the district says, asking parents to make a decision and enroll in this option, if they choose it, by July 22. If parents do not sign their children up for the online academy, they will automatically be enrolled in the hybrid model, the district says.

Indian Prairie School District 204

Indian Prairie School District 204, which includes the west suburban communities of Aurora, Bolingbrook, Plainfield and Naperville, begins fall classes on Aug. 20, Supt. Adrian Talley said. The plan includes two options: "A/B/C schedule" and "online academy."

For the A/B/C schedule option, students will, based on their last name, have an assigned schedule of two in-person instruction days and two remote instruction days each week. The assigned schedules will be on Tuesday/Thursday and Wednesday/Friday. Mondays will combine whole class remote instruction, individual student support and teacher prep time. Students with special needs may attend school four days a week. Public health guidelines, including requiring face coverings, will be followed.  

For the online academy, all instruction will be delivered online. This will be open to all students, though parents must register their child for a full semester by Aug. 1. Due to staffing limits, parents cannot select or drop this option after that date, the district says.

Attendance will be taken and work will be graded to determine a student's final grade, according to the letter. Parents will be able to select their option beginning the week of July 20.

Township High School District 211

Township High School District 211, one of the largest school districts in Illinois, has announced three possible scenarios as they prepare for the first day of school next month.

The district, which includes Conant, Fremd, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Schaumburg high schools, is set to start the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 13. According to a letter from District Superintendent Lisa Small, there are "three learning scenarios that may occur at any point during the school year."

Which scenario the school uses depends on "the health status of our region," Small wrote. The options for the district include:

- Remote Scenario: No students physically present in school.
Hybrid Scenario: 50% of the students physically attend school for a week, while 50% of students attend school remotely for a week. Each student group, representing 50%, rotates weekly between remote attendance to class from home and physical attendance.
Traditional Scenario: All students attend class according to the typical course schedule.

Under the plans, both the remote scenario and hybrid scenario will include an "A-Day/B-Day rotation" that would allow a student to participate in four classes a day in an every-other-day pattern.

The remote scenario would mean students will learn from home every school day for four, one-hour class periods and a 15-minute break between periods. The hybrid scenario will follow the same schedule as the remote, but a student will be physically in class one week and then remote the next.

Bus runs will take students to school for their in-person weeks, but parents can also choose to keep their child home.

More details can be found here.

Archdiocese of Chicago

The Archdiocese of Chicago's plan to reopen schools in the fall will allow students to return to classrooms for in-person instruction.

The plan includes measures like mandatory face masks for students over the age of 2, student "cohorts," temperature checks and the option to continue online learning.

The reopening plan features the following restrictions and changes:

  • All students over the age of 2 and school employees will be required to wear masks while indoors. Masks may only be removed during designated activities (such as lunch and recess) and only then if students remain physically distant.
  • Students will be assigned to a “cohort”, which will correspond to their homeroom class and will remain with those same classmates throughout the day. Students within a cohort will remain physically as far apart as possible to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Schools will provide new pick-up and drop-off procedures, walking routes within the buildings and other measures to limit the physical interaction of students. 
  • Parents will be asked to take their children’s temperatures daily. Temperature checks will also occur as students enter the school building every day.
  • Schools will adhere to infection protocols, requiring any student who presents symptoms of COVID-19 and/or tests positive for the virus to quarantine and seek medical attention before returning to class.
  • Finally, families who are not ready for their children to return to classrooms will still have the option for online learning.

More details can be found here.

Chicago Public Schools

The state's largest school district has not yet announced plans or a framework to return to classes in the fall, though Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in early June that an announcement would be coming.

Speaking at an unrelated press conference on July 9, Lightfoot said details on the district's reopening plan are set to be released, though she declined to give a specific timeline.

"As with everything, we're going to be guided by the public health guidance and we need to take our time and see where we are in the arc of this virus at that point. But having said that, of course, CPS with a lot of different stakeholders has been working on the reopening opening plan and what that will look like," she said. "I will let them give the specifics, but we plan to make an announcement relatively soon about what that might look like. But of course, we have contingency plans, if our public health metrics are not where we need them to be in late August."

Chicago Public Schools has said it will work to develop its own rules and regulations to allow children to return to schools safely. Officials planned to gather feedback from parents, teachers and other staff.

“Chicago Public Schools is eager to open its doors to students as soon as its safe to do so, and the district is gathering feedback from families to inform draft reopening guidelines for our schools,” CPS said in a statement last month. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our students, staff and families, and we remain committed to widespread engagement to ensure our plan for reopening supports the diverse needs of our entire school community.”

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