July 9, 2020
Dear D219 Parents and Guardians,
Our district has been closely monitoring guidance from the State of Illinois about how schools can best begin the 2020-21 school year in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the State of Illinois is in Phase 4 of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan. In Phase 4, schools can begin to have in-person instruction, blended instruction, and/or remote instruction. On June 23, 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) published guidance for schools across the state to consider as we all begin to develop our return-to-school plans for our own communities. On June 29, 2020, ISBE provided additional information through an FAQ.
D219 is carefully balancing our top two priorities: providing the best possible education to our students, while at the same time ensuring the safety and security of our students and our faculty and staff members.
The ISBE guidance states, “Schools and districts are encouraged to provide completely in-person instruction for all students in Phase 4, provided that the school is able to comply with capacity limits and implement social distancing measures.” Although this one sentence simplifies what schools need to consider, the guidance goes further into detail of what should be considered.
We thank all of you who responded to our survey asking for your comments and suggestions about the return to school this August. Here is a summary of the survey results.
We realize that, ideally, we would be able to welcome all of our students back to school in person this August. However, in order to keep them safe, it is not possible for our large, comprehensive high schools to bring all of our students back at the same time in person; this will be considered in Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan, which probably is months away, at best.
Instead, the district will embark on a phase-in plan to bring students back in some way. The year will start with all students using remote learning up until Labor Day, which is September 7. After Labor Day, we will begin to have students return to school on a limited basis, and in smaller numbers. Our current thought is to bring students in for programmatic purposes, beginning with those functions and activities that are best served face-to-face, rather than through remote learning. This includes students with special education needs, students with 504 plans, and students who need English language supports. (More details will be forthcoming). This may also include functions such as laboratory experiences, important hands-on activities, access to certain software, and social-emotional experiences.
The first day of required attendance (via remote learning) this year will be Monday, August 17.
Originally, the first day of student attendance had been scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, with the two days prior scheduled for professional development planning for faculty and staff members. This year, because our teachers and staff need more planning time now that we know school will start with remote learning, the entire week of August 10 to 14 will be used for staff professional development.
After switching to remote learning at a moment’s notice in the spring, we have learned quite a bit based on your feedback, students’ feedback, and our own experiences. We will be able to improve remote learning for our students thanks to the D219 Board of Education’s decision last night to approve the district’s purchase of Canvas, which is a Learning Management System (LMS) that provides a structure for classroom and lesson delivery. The Canvas platform will provide a one-stop destination for students and teachers to collaborate on teaching and learning, and will also provide one centralized place parents and guardians can go to stay in touch with what their children are learning in our schools. We will be sending you more information about this powerful new learning tool in the next few weeks.
While knowing that we are in the midst of a pandemic and that there is still so much we do not know about COVID-19, my administrative team, along with the union, is working hard to finalize our plan. I understand how frustrating it is for our students, their families and our staff members to have so many questions about this coming school year still unanswered. Please know we are doing our best to make timely and well-informed decisions, and to communicate information to you as clearly and as quickly as we can.
We will be sending you more details over the next few weeks to keep you informed. This includes details about Freshman Orientation, information for all students about how to log in on the first day of school, and expectations for remote learning and grading procedures. During the three weeks of remote learning, we will also send information about our phase-in of students returning to school. We are also determining what extracurriculars and athletics will look like in the fall.
Thank you for your understanding and for your ongoing support of our students.
Dr. Steven Isoye
Superintendent of Schools