Daily Journal

Some school districts are modifying their reopening plans after recent guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education called for a remote learning option to be offered to all students.

On July 23, ISBE issued a 103-page document of updated guidance on returning to school in fall 2020.

“ISBE strongly recommends in-person learning but understands that during this unmitigated crisis intermittent closures may be unavoidable ... Even if a district reopens for in-person learning there will be some students who cannot attend, and districts must be prepared to meet the needs of those students through remote learning,” the guidance states.

Herscher School District changed its back-to-school plan to allow all students to choose a remote learning option regardless of medical necessity.

Previously, the district planned to bring students back for full days of completely in-person learning and allow students with a doctor’s note to opt to continue remote learning.

The district will now be shortening school days to half days.

In-person learners will attend school from 8 to 11:45 a.m., with grab-and-go lunches served. Teacher office hours and remote instruction will take place from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m.

District staff will supervise pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in-person learners who are unable to go home early until 3:05 p.m.

Superintendent Rich Decman said the half days will be in place for the foreseeable future.

“However, the plan is completely fluid,” he said. “It could change at a moment’s notice [with new guidance].”

The half days mean class periods will be shortened. At Herscher High School, classes will be 25 to 30 minutes.

By early Wednesday afternoon, a little over 50 families had requested fully remote learning out of 724 that completed the district’s survey, or roughly 7 percent.

“We are trying to abide by all the guidance and mandates, and we will continue to do so,” Decman said.

Momence School District also changed gears to include a fully remote option in its reopening plan.

In Momence, students will be divided into two attendance groups based on alphabetical order and attend school and learn from home on alternating days.

In-person school days will be shortened to half days as well, with students to complete the day with remote learning after school. All families will be offered a fully remote option.

Superintendent Shannon Anderson said about 25 percent of families that responded to the district’s survey this week indicated they want fully remote learning.

Anderson said administrators had been looking into expanding the learning options available, but they had not figured out how they would do so until the remote learning option was mandated.

He said the district’s pandemic response team had thoroughly reviewed the first set of guidelines from ISBE and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The team had to meet again to update the plan in light of the new guidance ahead of Monday’s school board meeting, when a final plan was approved.

“We made some modifications to the plan, and then we felt comfortable that it was focused on the safety of students, the safety of staff, and on learning,” Anderson said.

The team will also be periodically reevaluating the plan to make modifications as necessary.

“We need strong leaders during this time, but we also need people to be considerate and flexible, which is what we have been seeing from the community,” Anderson said. “We will continue to do our best, stay abreast of changes and adapt.”

{p dir=”ltr”}{span}Manteno School District is also altering its plans based on the recent guidance.{/span}

{p dir=”ltr”}{span}Superintendent Lisa Herrod said in a post on the district’s Facebook page that both remote and in-person instruction will be offered at all three schools. {/span}

{p dir=”ltr”}{span}“There has been a lack of coordination and communication that has caused Illinois (s)chools to be working with a moving target in many areas,” she wrote about the recent guidance. “{span}We appreciate your patience as we work through these changes and send information directly to parents.”{/span} {/span}

{p dir=”ltr”}{span}Manteno’s back-to-school plan will be released within the next couple of days, according to the district office. {/span}

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools.

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