Algonquin-based Community School District 300 will begin its school year with remote learning, a significant change to its reopening plan announced at its school board meeting Tuesday night.
The district’s original plan was for an in-person return to school for pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students, with some modifications, and a hybrid schedule for high schoolers, where they would be split into two groups that switch off days between e-learning and in-person.
Now, the school year, starting Aug. 17, will remain remote for all students through the end of the district’s first quarter, which ends Oct. 9.
All of these changes were based on guidance documents from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Superintendent Fred Heid said Tuesday. The decision also took into consideration local data and conversations with local health departments.
As the district developed its fall plans, it struggled to reconcile apparent contradictions in existing CDC and IDPH guidance, Heid said. It also had concerns about the ability to purchase enough personal protective equipment for students and staff, he said.
The conflicting guidance included whether meals can be served in the cafeteria with specific precautions or served in the classroom without additional precautions, Heid said. Questions were asked about whether students should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at school.
Heid said ongoing conversations and town hall meetings with staff have found that they were requesting additional supplies.
“It does take time for us to go out to the marketplace and procure those,” he said.
Heid also pointed to the daily increases in COVID-19 case counts in Kane and McHenry counties, noting that while children are at less risk for complications from COVID-19, that is not the case for the district’s 2,400 employees.
“That’s a large concern for us as well, especially in the absence of something like daily screening,” Heid said.
He said the reason he recommended the change is because the district needs additional time to figure out how the CDC guidance will influence the state’s guidance.
“In the absence of the state’s recommending or requiring daily screening, our district will have to implement something actionable for our community,” Heid said.
For the upcoming school year, remote learning will consist of “synchronous” instruction Monday through Thursday, meaning teachers and students will interact live on Zoom, with teachers delivering instruction, modeling, providing for practice, providing feedback and supporting collaborative groups.
On Fridays, there will be “asynchronous learning,” and teachers will use this time to follow-up with students who require assistance; students who have been absent or are missing assignments; follow-up with families when students are failing to participate in class; and schedule time for students to come in to complete labs, complete an assessment, or other activities.
“This is not the remote learning we did previously,” Heid said. “This is a very different approach to remote learning, far more synchronous, far more live instruction, far more engagement and a focus on current standards.”
Parents can expect an update regarding the district’s plans for the second nine-week quarter Sept. 11.
The school board also approved pushing back the start date to Aug. 17, so that Aug. 13, the original start of school, and the following day can be used for professional development.
The board did not take an official vote on the change to remote learning because the proposal was not included on the agenda. Instead, it took a straw poll to see if board members approved of the new plan, which they did, unanimously.
Board President Anne Miller said a resolution approved at the board’s July 14 meeting gave the superintendent the ability to modify the plan that was originally presented.
“As long as we have consensus, and Mr. Heid has fulfilled the obligations as listed in our resolution on the 14th, we can carry on,” Miller said.