District 204 anticipating a return to 'pre-pandemic' operations this fall
After more than a year of remote coursework, limited in-person opportunities and altered schedules, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 leaders are preparing for schools to operate at near-normal levels next academic year.
Full in-person schedules, including lunch periods, are set to resume at all grade levels this fall, Superintendent Adrian Talley told the school board this week. And though some COVID-19 safety protocols will likely remain in place, he said, "we are expecting our kids to be in session, coming in like they normally would before the pandemic happened."
Distance-learning options will be available only to eligible students for medical reasons, Talley said. While remote learners now participate alongside in-person peers by streaming their classes live, educators next year will be separated and assigned to teach either in the classroom or online, he said.
Details about back-to-school plans, including in-person and remote schedules, are expected to be shared during the June 14 board meeting.
"It's important for everyone to remember that schools will look, for the most part, as they did pre-pandemic," Talley said.
But there may be some key differences. Based on state guidance, which Talley acknowledged changes frequently, students returning to school could be required to wear masks all day, maintain 6 feet of social distancing during lunch, and be seated at least 3 feet apart in the classroom.
Using a portion of its anticipated $13 million in federal relief funding, District 204 plans to reduce average class sizes in kindergarten through second grades at all elementary schools starting in 2021-22, Talley said.
A coordinator for math and another for literacy will be hired to provide a "systemic approach" to those subjects in kindergarten through eighth grades, he said. And a districtwide assistant director role for mental health wellness will be created to "ensure we have an effective program in place to support students and staff."
Those positions and class sizes are expected to continue beyond next year, Talley said.
The district also plans to hire several one-year employees who would be focused on offering mental health and academic support for middle and high school students, he said.
Talley said he anticipates spending some of the stimulus money on after-school activities for all grade levels and materials to ensure safe lunch periods. Administrators are expected to monitor circumstances across the district to determine how best to allocate additional funding.
"We believe the spending mentioned ... will directly support our students and teachers by providing additional resources in our schools and central office to address the academic needs of our children, the professional needs of our staff and the social-emotional needs of both," Talley said.