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D. 202 will start year with remote learning on August 31st, may return in person later

District 202 students will start the 2020-21 school year with remote learning on August 31, 2020 but could return to in-person learning later this fall if COVID-19 conditions allow, under a proposal approved Monday.

The District 202 Board of Education voted 4-2 to approve a slightly-amended version of the administration’s “Return ‘20” proposed plan to reopen schools this fall.

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The approval comes a week after the original version failed by a 3-3 vote. Board member Robert Smith voted for the amended proposal Monday. Board Secretary David Koch and member Dr. Michael Robey voted against the amended proposal again. Board President Kevin Kirberg, Vice President Rod Westfall and member Heather Drake supported the amended plan. Board member Joette Doyle was absent because of recent health issues.

The amended plan responds to more than 2,300 comments from parents, staff, students, staff, administrators, and Board members received since July 15, 2020 when the Board received the original proposal at a special Committee of the Whole meeting. The Board voted 3-3 shared the district’s original proposal at its July 20, 2020 regular meeting. The original proposal failed by virtue of the tie vote.

District 202 Superintendent Dr. Lane Abrell stressed that both versions of the reopening plan prioritize the safety and well-being of District 202 students, families, and staff.

“We know some of our neighboring districts are choosing to start the year with in-person learning,” Abrell said. “We sincerely hope no one anywhere gets sick or worse, but we must be concerned first and foremost about our own students, staff and families.”

Abrell also reiterated that District 202 administration and teachers have worked very hard to improve its Remote Learning plan capabilities and resources after the system did not work as well as hoped last spring.

“We have invested a tremendous amount of time, energy and money to improve our Remote Learning system both for now and for later when we have bad weather,” Abrell said.

AMENDMENTS TO THE PROPOSAL

The amended “Return ’20 plan includes several important changes to the original proposal. As now approved:

  • Remote learning will start August 31st rather than August 24th, to allow more time to:
    • buy protective personal equipment and safety-related custodial supplies for when in-person instruction resumes
    • polish the Remote Learning Plan and
    • train paraprofessionals who may help deliver remote learning
    • deliver laptops between August 17-26 to all 6th-12th graders. District administration is still exploring the possibility of giving laptops to 4th and 5th graders
  • Among their other responsibilities, teachers are expected to:
    • Respond to parent or student emails during regular business hours within 24 hours of receipt
    • Host at least one live Google Hangout, Meet or Zoom meeting each day during school hours, rather than at least one per week.
  • Work will continue to plan to bring students back for in-person education as soon as it is safe to do so. To that end:
    • District and school administration will work with teams, teachers to develop transition activities for certain grade levels of specific student populations to the extend conditions allow. Examples include, but are not limited to “Step Up Days,” etc.
    • Administration will review COVID-19 conditions and metrics, and neighboring districts’ success with in-person learning in the first four to six weeks of school, rather than the first six weeks, with the goal of returning to school in person for the second quarter if practical. The second quarter starts October 19, 2020.
    • Administration will give priority consideration to having the most at-risk students return to in-person education first.

Abrell fully intends for students to return to in-person learning as soon as possible, depending on the status of the pandemic, he stressed. Remote learning would continue if the pandemic conditions do not improve.

When in-person learning resumes, instruction would be held on either a partial/modified or hybrid schedule depending on circumstances, to limit numbers of students in buildings. Options include A/B schedules and/or blended remote and in-person learning.

Parents will be able to choose whether to send students back to school if in-person learning resumes after the first nine weeks of school.

In any case, in-person instruction would require robust safety protocols and guidelines, including students and staff wearing masks indoors at all times per current state guidance.

Finally, if conditions significantly improve, students could return to in-person learning in larger, more “normal” numbers, again with robust safety protocols and guidelines.

Parents would still be able to choose whether to send students back to school.