PLAINFIELD, IL — Plainfield School District 202 students will start returning to school in October if the coronavirus pandemic does not get worse. Superintendent Lane Abrell updated the Board of Education on Monday regarding the status of the district’s Return ’20 plan.
According to the update, preschool and kindergarten students will return to school the week of Nov. 2, while older students will return in small grade-related groups between Nov. 16 and Jan. 19, as part of the district’s plan to slowly resume in-person learning over the next four months. Families will receive additional details about returning to in-person learning as their students’ return approaches.
Pre-kindergarten-12th grade multi-needs special education students are scheduled to return Oct. 26.
The board had approved the Return ’20 plan on July 27. It includes three educational phases focused on safety and flexibility. The first phase started Aug. 31 with remote learning for all students. It called for returning those students first who most need direct instruction and support.
Meanwhile, district administration is monitoring numerous criteria over the first four to six weeks of school to decide when to start the second phase — a controlled, moderated return to in-person learning.
Criteria include health metrics and safety guidelines, the availability of safety and cleaning supplies, regular and substitute staffing, and community feedback.
“All of us understand the importance of having students in school for face-to-face instruction,” Abrell said. “We have been studying this issue and working on return plans even before we started remote learning in August. However, we must do this in a thoughtful, deliberate and safe manner.”
Timelines for returning students to in-person learning will depend on the success of each previous group, Abrell said. Staff will continue to monitor conditions as students and staff return to buildings to ensure compliance with all appropriate COVID-19 guidelines. School could close again if conditions worsen. The length of and response to such closures will depend on specific circumstances.
A phased-in return will also let staff see how well the district can maintain inventory of personal protective equipment, ensure the availability of regular and substitute staff, and confirm student, staff and facility readiness.
“We must strictly adhere to the health and safety guidelines from all local, state and federal health agencies,” Abrell said. “Failing to do so would put students, staff, and even the community at risk.”
Those guidelines will include all students — except for those exempted for medical reasons — and staff wearing masks whenever they are in the classroom or schools.
“Masks are an essential tool to help ensure the health and safety of everyone in our schools. They are not a political statement or a First Amendment issue,” Abrell said. “While some would like to think so, schools don’t just exist in a vacuum. We have said many times: This is not just a personal issue, or even a school issue. This is a community health issue.”
Even though many students, staff and parents will be excited to see in-person classes resume, Abrell said no one should expect school to look the way it did before schools across the state shut down on March 16.
“This fall, we will be returning to a much more static, sterile environment,” he said.
Likewise, many will also still be concerned about bringing nearly 26,000 students and 3,200 employees back to schools. For that reason, parents will be able to choose remote learning or an in-person hybrid model for their students for the rest of first semester only.
Families who choose in-person hybrid learning may move to full remote learning during first semester. However, families who choose remote learning cannot switch to in-person learning until second semester, to allow for appropriate staffing.
Some key points from D202’s plan to resume in-person learning:
- District staff will return to schools Oct. 15.
- Parents will be surveyed in advance of their students’ targeted return date and about their intent for their child to return, to allow for appropriate staffing.
- Students will be divided into A and B groupings for attendance, to limit the number of students in school at one time.
- Busing will be provided.
- Sit-down, traditional lunch will not be provided; grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches will be provided.
The district reminds everyone that all dates and decisions are tentative based on current health conditions.
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