In-person, online options in District 21's reopening plan

  • Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 has released a reopening plan for its 13 schools that calls for students to return to buildings, though families could choose online learning. But some parents want a hybrid option to allow a little of both.

      Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 has released a reopening plan for its 13 schools that calls for students to return to buildings, though families could choose online learning. But some parents want a hybrid option to allow a little of both. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer, 2018

  • Michael Connolly

    Michael Connolly

 
 
Updated 7/13/2020 6:32 PM

Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 will open its school doors to in-person instruction in the fall, but parents can opt for online distance learning.

The registration form for the distance learning option is due to the district by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2. Otherwise, students automatically will be enrolled for in-person instruction, officials say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Families who choose distance learning will be enrolled for the first 12-week trimester, with the option later in the fall to continue online or return to school in person.

The online program will mirror in-person instruction and include a blend of live small group, video conference and individualized instruction, officials said.

But, prompted by several parent questions, district officials on Monday announced they also are researching the feasibility of offering a voluntary hybrid learning schedule with both in-person and distance learning.

That could allow students to attend classes for core subjects in person while completing all other instruction online at home. A parent survey to collect feedback about that possibility was released Monday and is due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 19.

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The District 21 reopening plan, detailed by Superintendent Michael Connolly and reviewed by the school board late last week, calls for parents to perform a daily health check on their children before sending them to school. Also, face coverings must be worn by students, staff and visitors at all times inside school buildings and buses.

While hoping to maximize in-person learning to the greatest extent possible, Connolly acknowledged that transitions between in-person and distance learning may be necessary, depending on local COVID-19 infection rates and as guidance evolves from federal, state and local health and education officials.

"Our success as a school district will hinge on our ability and willingness to follow the science, be agile, flexible, and ready to deal with the unknown," Connolly wrote in an introduction to the 26-page plan. "It will be critical that we acknowledge and embrace that our coming year will be very different than those in our past."

The first day of school for grades 1-8 is Thursday, Aug. 20. Kindergarten and pre-K will start Friday, Aug. 21. The middle school day will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- a half-hour earlier due to increased time needed for districtwide student bus service. Elementary schools will remain 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., while prekindergarten programs will run five days per week in 2½-hour morning and afternoon sessions.

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