Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct tentative date of the next school board meeting.
BOURBONNAIS — The Bourbonnais Elementary School Board approved a back-to-school plan Tuesday, including specific procedural plans for each school and a remote learning option for all students.
The board also voted to change school hours to half days for all grades and give Superintendent Adam Ehrman discretion to decide whether or not to go forward with an alternating schedule for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Under the alternating schedule, seventh- and eighth-graders would be divided into A and B groups based on alphabetical order; the two groups would attend school and learn from home every other day.
Students on the in-person schedule in kindergarten through sixth grades will attend school five days per week.
All in-person students will have to complete some remote learning at home after school to make up the hours of a full school day.
The fully-remote option will be open to all students regardless of medical necessity.
“Providing a choice for parents in this time of panic and fear and concern was a priority,” Ehrman said.
Schools also will be serving grab-and-go lunches in light of the half days.
Ehrman said he would be making the determination for seventh- and eighth-graders during administrative meetings in the coming days in order to get information out to parents as soon as possible.
A special board of education meeting is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. so the board can review the final plan before school starts Aug. 19.
The resolution approved Tuesday authorizes the superintendent to modify the plan to adhere to new guidance from state officials or agencies, such as the governor, the Illinois State Board of Education or the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Ehrman stressed that the plan is fluid due to constantly changing information surrounding COVID-19, and the district is prepared to implement fully-remote learning again if required.
“There is no right answer here,” he said. “School districts across the state are slicing this apple in many different ways.”
Other details of the plan include that students at all schools will be required to wear face masks in buildings and go directly to class when they arrive at school. Homeroom teachers will take students’ temperatures, and parents will be asked to certify that any student sent to school is symptom free.
Students’ desks will all face the same direction in classrooms, with no desks facing each other or placed in groups. School offices will keep updated copies of classroom seating charts.
Bourbonnais Education Association President Lauren Lundmark addressed the board Tuesday and shared results of a teacher survey regarding returning to school.
According to the survey, 82 percent of teachers want to return to school in some fashion, but 67 percent would prefer a blended model.
The survey also indicated that 58 percent of teachers did not feel student safety was ensured in the district’s proposed back-to-school plan, and 63 percent did not feel staff safety was ensured. Only 19 percent said they felt comfortable with the plan as it was proposed before Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Teachers are not feeling the normal back-to-school excitement we normally feel,” Lundmark said. “Some are scared.”
Among teacher concerns were maintaining social distancing with the number of students in each classroom, having adequate PPE and having adequate time for cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, Lundmark said.
Teachers also expressed concern for the quality of learning that would take place in an environment where students’ desks have to face one direction and group collaboration is limited.
“We know our students so badly want to return to school, but it’s not going to be the school they are used to or the school they love,” Lundmark said.