District 214 solicits feedback, says its reopening plan is still taking shape

  • Northwest Suburban High School District 214 officials and teachers union leaders say a reopening plan has yet to be finalized for the 2020-21 academic season. This is Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.

    Northwest Suburban High School District 214 officials and teachers union leaders say a reopening plan has yet to be finalized for the 2020-21 academic season. This is Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent David Schuler says a tentative reopening plan would align with public health guidance.

    Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent David Schuler says a tentative reopening plan would align with public health guidance. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 7/17/2020 10:03 PM

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 officials and teachers union leaders say a draft reopening plan announced this week should not be considered final for the 2020-21 academic year.

As proposed, the reopening would align with public health guidance to meet the needs and expectations of families, District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said. He said the early summary released Thursday night was formed after receiving insight and ideas from students and parents over the past six to eight weeks.

 

The 2020-21 fall semester would offer in-person classes for all teenagers whose families are comfortable sending them to school five days a week. Students also would be allowed to take classes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, with parents possibly getting to choose between the two options daily.

Schuler said the plan is being developed with input from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and other entities to ensure the safety of the students and staff, along with quality learning. There is no timetable for when the final plan will be released.

"In addition to union members, we are asking parents and others to provide feedback as well," he said. "Our staff, rightfully so, have expressed concerns around their safety and the plan's details, which are forthcoming. We have received a variety of responses from parents and students."

Mixed opinions were received during the district's planning process about whether students should return to school every day. Some called for new content and accountability for students -- along with allotting more planning and preparation time for instructors -- in a remote learning setting, Schuler said.

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Nichole Anderson, vice president of the 214 Education Association, addressed the reopening plan in a letter to union members. The association is part of Northwest Suburban Teachers Union Local 1211 and represents about 860 certified instructors, counselors, nurses, specialists and non-classroom personnel.

Anderson encouraged members to provide input via an online form that can be reviewed by union officials and district administrators because "many components of the plan have not been finalized," including "decisions on the health, safety and wellness of the entire school community."

"The plan is very fluid at this point," Anderson wrote, "and both the district and the (union) acknowledge we may need to make adjustments that include reducing capacity in the building, a blended/hybrid model or full remote learning based on community spread or other health concerns."

What's known as a block schedule might be used to begin the school season. That means students would attend four extended classes each day instead of eight classes of 48 minutes each in an effort to limit movement in buildings, with the day starting at 8:45 a.m. and ending at 3:25 p.m.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sophomores, juniors and seniors would be able to leave campus in the first semester if they don't have class -- similar to a college setting -- provided they have permission from parents or guardians and are meeting academic targets.

To ensure not more than 50 people are in a space, tentative plans call for multiple food pickup locations throughout each school and several locations where students can eat. The teens would be able to purchase one of two different prepackaged meals each day.

Schuler said the district knew going in that there could not be a one-size-fits-all approach to the reopening plan.

"We believe our plan is in the best interest of our families, allowing flexibility and choice," he said. "By not having all students in school every day, we will be able to create classrooms with fewer desks and tables, and have them separated for distancing purposes to protect students and staff.

"We have even gone so far as to ensure programs like our nationally recognized internship program continues, but in this case on a virtual basis, with students gaining workplace learning experiences by working through problems of practice with individuals and companies remotely," he said.

Teachers will report for professional development days on Aug. 12 and 13, and freshman orientation will occur Aug. 14. Classes for sophomores, juniors and seniors will begin Aug. 17.

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