Naperville District 203 preschool, elementary students could return to the classroom this month

  • Naperville Unit District 203 administrators have described their plans to offer in-person learning opportunities to preschool and elementary school students by the end of this month, while junior high and high school students prepare for the transition. Community members who attended a rally in downtown Naperville last month were urging officials to implement an in-person option.

      Naperville Unit District 203 administrators have described their plans to offer in-person learning opportunities to preschool and elementary school students by the end of this month, while junior high and high school students prepare for the transition. Community members who attended a rally in downtown Naperville last month were urging officials to implement an in-person option. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/7/2020 9:05 AM

Naperville Unit District 203 could welcome early childhood and elementary students back to the classroom by the end of the month, while middle and high schoolers transition to a block schedule to prepare for future in-person instruction.

The district is scheduled to transition next week into a revised second stage of its "Return to Learn" plan, which prioritizes bringing its youngest learners back to school in a limited capacity as early as Oct. 20, Superintendent Dan Bridges said.

 

A decision to start the academic year remotely has been met with criticism by several community members, who have urged school leaders to reinstate an in-person option. A recent survey indicated more than 70% of families who responded would be willing to send their kids back to school.

Administrators and school board members have asked families to be patient as they navigate what Bridges called an "ever-evolving" COVID-19 situation.

"I do recognize the incredible load being lifted by so many of you to make this year work," he said during a meeting Monday. "As a school system, we want our kids back in school."

Preschool and elementary students are expected to gradually return to some form of in-person learning four days a week, with Mondays designated as e-learning days, administrators said in a presentation to the school board.

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Initially, early childhood students will be divided into two cohorts that will attend school on alternating days, said Chuck Freundt, assistant superintendent for elementary education. That staggered schedule will continue through Nov. 6 to ensure kids become acquainted with new health protocols in small groups.

At the elementary level, in-person learning will be offered Tuesday through Friday in a half-day hybrid model, he said. Half the students will attend school from 8:15 to 10:45 a.m., while the other half are assigned to an afternoon session from noon to 2:30 p.m.

English/language arts, social studies, math and social-emotional learning have been identified as the focus of in-person and virtual live instruction, Freundt said. Kids are expected to engage in remote activities when they are not in the classroom.

The half-day in-person learning format will begin Oct. 20 for kindergartners, with one grade level added each day until all have returned Oct. 28, Freundt said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Livestream technology has been installed in the classrooms, allowing students who have chosen the online-only option to participate in synchronous learning with their teachers and peers, said Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The week of Oct. 19, junior high and high schools will move into an online block schedule Tuesday through Fridays, in which students will attend half their classes each day for an extended amount of time, Willard said. On Mondays, all nine periods will be held remotely.

The new e-learning plan aims to ease the transition to a Stage 3 hybrid model, where block scheduling could limit passing periods and reduce health risks, administrators said. During the adjusted Stage 2, the district also plans to gradually increase the number of students who receive in-person support and limited instruction to familiarize them with new building protocols.

Early childhood, elementary, specialized classrooms and Connections students are being asked to choose between the Stage 2 in-person model or an online-only format by 3 p.m. Friday, according to a note from Bridges. Junior high and high school students will receive a selection message the week of Oct. 26.

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