With schedule change denied, District 211 planning for normal 2021-22 school year
Though a majority of his colleagues early Friday voted against a proposed class schedule change for the next two months that he supported, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board President Robert LeFevre Jr. said the most important goal should be planning a 2021-22 school year that doesn't mix in-person and remote learning.
That's more crucial to attracting students back to the classroom than the recent change in the state's social distancing guidelines allowing more of them to be there at the same time, he said.
"The challenge is classes that are mixed," LeFevre said. "It taints the in-person learning experience."
As long as even one student in a class is learning remotely, the teacher must conduct the class in a way that caters to an online audience. That can cause students who made the effort to come to school just to learn the same way as online question why they did it, he said
A traditional, pre-pandemic school year in District 211 is what's being planned for the fall, Superintendent Lisa Small said. No provisions are being made for remote learning unless the Illinois State Board of Education absolutely requires it.
But with all students who choose to come to school now able to do so every day, Small had hoped to lengthen the school day by an hour on April 5. The board rejected that plan by a 4-3 vote after midnight Thursday.
Board members Mark Cramer and Pete Dombrowski instead supported a full return to eight-period days, but Small said the current pattern of students having four periods on alternate days has become part of the mindset for the current school year and it would be difficult to change with only two months left. Their proposal was voted down, 5-2.
Criticisms of Small's plan included the lengthening of each class from 60 to 75 minutes, the late lunchtimes that resulted, and the fact that the school year's pattern of having half of each student's class schedule on alternating days would be retained.
"You're still stealing 100 minutes from them," Dombrowski said. "I can't support this."
But while LeFevre believes Small and her staff have the know-how to back up their claim that the proposed revision would have provided the best possible educational model, he doesn't believe students will be harmed by completing the school year under the current schedule.
"The feelings about the proposed schedule change differed from person to person, and understandably," LeFevre said. "How bad is it, incrementally, that we're staying the same? I don't get bent out of shape by this at all. We should have these conversations. It's healthy."
LeFevre was joined in his support for Small's proposed schedule changes by fellow board members Kim Cavill and Ed Yung. Board members Anna Klimkowicz and Steven Rosenblum voted against both proposals.
One change was made. Enabled by state health officials' reducing the required distance between everyone in the schools to 3 feet instead of 6, the district has officially eliminated a two-team system in which students who chose in-person learning could access it only on alternating weeks.
But school officials noted that system had not been in use since February due to the number of students who were choosing remote learning.
While students are getting just four hours of class time each day, they can choose to participate in academic support sessions with teachers after lunch for what would normally be the remainder of the school day, district officials said.
Some aspects of the end of the school year -- particularly for seniors -- are planned to be as normal as possible.
Graduation ceremonies for all five high schools have been scheduled at the Now Arena in Hoffman Estates. If COVID-19 protocols allow it, these ceremonies would be held inside. If not, each school's ceremony would be held as drive-in events in the parking lot.
Plans and venues for in-person proms are in place for all five schools, too, Small said.
Preparations are also being made for in-person summer school.