How Wheaton Warrenville District 200 is adjusting class schedules to clean school buildings
Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 has outlined new details about plans to reopen schools as a Friday deadline nears for families grappling with whether to send their children to a classroom environment reshaped by the COVID-19 crisis.
The day-to-day schedule in the K-12 system will vary for students based on their grade level. But across the board, the district plans to temporarily close schools midweek to do a deep cleaning of its 20 buildings.
Amid high stakes and much uncertainty, districts are trying to build a routine into the new school year while preparing for a possible resurgence of virus cases coinciding with flu season.
Families in District 200 need to decide by the end of Friday if they want to enroll in a "virtual academy" for five hours of daily distance learning at home. The district has set that deadline to sort out staffing needs and finalize scheduling.
Officials say they would prefer to create a team of teachers that will work with groups of students in the middle and high school virtual academies, but the district may need to use an online course provider for certain subject areas if there is low enrollment overall or low enrollment in specific courses.
Middle and high school students in the virtual academies also can still participate in extracurricular activities.
Alternatively, families have the option of sending children back for in-person learning in the district's elementary schools and early childhood center.
Elementary students will attend school four days a week, with classes letting out early at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays to allow for campus cleanings.
The district normally runs a four-day early childhood program, but those students will now have Wednesdays off instead of Mondays to align with the cleaning regimen.
At the middle and high school levels, the district will offer a hybrid model, dividing the student population at each school into two groups to accommodate social distancing measures. Each group will alternate between two days of in-person instruction and two days of remote learning every week.
On Wednesdays, both groups will participate in live e-learning designed to bring together sections of students who will otherwise be split for the hybrid schedule so that they can collaborate with their peers, Superintendent Jeff Schuler said during a parent webinar this week.
The district lacks the custodial manpower to clean each classroom between passing periods, but every room will have hand sanitizer and disinfectant products, Assistant Superintendent Bill Farley said.
Several parents raised questions about how the district will handle confirmed cases of COVID-19. A district nurse will serve as the point person for contact tracing with the support of the county health department.
The nurse will notify families if their child has had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. A student or staff member would need to go into quarantine for at least 14 days if they were in close contact -- within 6 feet for 15 minutes or longer -- with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19.
"Whenever we're talking about a health issue, there is some degree of right to privacy that we're going to balance with making sure that we provide appropriate notification to those that may have been in contact," Schuler said.
Before classes start on Aug. 17, the district will ask all parents and teachers to sign a waiver certifying that, for the full year, they will verify each day that they or their children are symptom-free.