U-46 board approves plan for starting school year Aug. 24 remotely
The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board approved a plan Monday night for starting the school year Aug. 24 -- delayed roughly a week -- with distance learning for all students in kindergarten through high school.
The first e-learning day for preschoolers will be Aug. 31. Teachers return the week of Aug. 17 for professional development and planning for remote learning.
The district will transition to a hybrid model for preschool, elementary, and middle school students starting in the second quarter on Oct. 22 with emphasis on mask-wearing and social distancing. High school students will continue with online learning for the entire fall semester, said Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction.
During nine weeks of distance learning, access to buildings could be allowed for specific purposes, such as for lab work and Individualized Education Program requirements. Priority access will be allowed in small groups for English Language Learners, students needing additional academic, social and emotional support and special education, early childhood, dual language and kindergarten students. High school students would continue online learning with limited building access to small groups for career and technical education (CTE) programs, labs, gifted and academy programs and specialized courses of study, and students needing interventions or supports.
Johnson said resuming in-person instruction for high schools is much more complex.
"Our largest high school is approximately 2,800 students ... That's without the hundreds of staff members who also report to work each day," Johnson said.
The district's five high schools have different footprints, square footage, and varying programs and spaces for student gatherings and instruction. Among the challenges are being able to provide safe transitional periods and places where more than 50 students could gather while maintaining social distancing and meeting masking requirements. Breaking up high school student populations into smaller groups also will be difficult.
"They are markedly different and much larger in size from our middle schools and our elementary schools and thus one of the key reasons we have chosen to proceed with the online or virtual distance learning for high school for this semester," Johnson said.
Johnson acknowledged some other school districts are exploring starting the school year fully in-person, with a hybrid model or entirely virtual. And some districts already are revising those plans to start with a slower roll-in or distance learning for the first quarter or semester.
U-46 officials previously planned on starting the fall semester using a hybrid of in-person and online instruction.
"This may not meet the standard of perfection, but it meets the standard of safety for all of our students, and we will continue to proceed to do the best we can with that priority," Johnson said. "We are still determining specific courses and opportunities for in-person learning, activities and events. Our goal is to create a smooth transition and minimize change for students."
The district is launching a Distance Learning Academy, which will operate as a completely virtual kindergarten through eighth-grade school with U-46 teachers and curriculum. Families and staff members must select and commit to this option for the entire first semester. The academy currently is not an option for preschoolers who require hands-on, developmentally appropriate instruction, access to materials and resources. Details about the virtual academy will be finalized in early August.
With the later school start, the first semester will not conclude until after winter break this year. Calendar changes include adjusted dates for middle and high school quarters and elementary school trimesters, and designation of Election Day on Nov. 3 as a holiday. The school year will end on June 2.
For more details on the reopening plan, visit https://www.u-46.org/