Batavia middle, high schoolers to begin with all-remote learning

Updated 8/5/2020 5:31 PM

Middle and high school students in Batavia Unit District 101 will begin the fall semester in a fully remote format, according to a district update, reversing an original plan to offer an in-person learning option for all grade levels.

Elementary students are still expected to start on a hybrid schedule, as announced last month, but the alternating in-person model will likely extend beyond Labor Day, officials said.


Details of the modified reopening plan were released Wednesday in a joint message to staff members from Superintendent Lisa Hichens and Batavia Education Association President Todd Swanson. Scheduling logistics and teacher feedback, among evolving COVID-19 conditions, were key factors in making the adjustments, they said.

"Every single one of us can agree that these are times where 'business as normal' no longer applies," the letter says. "The world around us is forcing everyone to reevaluate decisions on a daily basis."

According to the message, students at Batavia High School and Rotolo Middle School will begin all-remote learning when schools reopen Aug. 19. The goal is to work toward eventually implementing a hybrid schedule and bringing students back to school for on-site learning in small groups, officials said, though details on that concept and timeline have not been determined.

A fully remote model has not been identified as a viable option for elementary students at this point, the letter says, "because our youngest learners need more coaching, more supervision (and) less screen time."

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The district's reopening plan also calls for significantly reduced class sizes at the lower grade levels.

The hybrid schedule will continue indefinitely for elementary schools, though officials hope to eventually move to daily in-person learning.

"Our elementary students need the structure and practice in a setting that allows them to become more independent learners as they get older," Hichens and Swanson said.

A "virtual academy" also is available for preschool and elementary students who selected an online-only learning option.

All employees are expected to report to work on-site for the 2020-21 school year, unless they have worked with human resources on an alternate plan, according to the letter.

"The rationale for this decision is that our students need our teachers more than ever," the note says. "Teaching from a classroom setting frees teachers from possible distractions, keeps available resources in the classroom and buildings at your fingertips, and provides a guaranteed infrastructure for technology that is being used by all."

Working under the same roof also improves collaboration among staff members, officials said. Those hesitant or unable to return in person are asked to contact human resources for accommodations.

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