District 204 planning for pre-pandemic school schedules this fall
The structures and schedules of the Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school day are expected to resemble a pre-pandemic environment next academic year, with additional resources planned to help students get back on track.
But the district is also at the mercy of the Illinois State Board of Education, administrators say, as they await updated COVID-19 guidance on logistics such as masks, quarantine protocols and social distancing during lunch and in the classroom.
"We anticipate and hope that the current mandates and requirements change during the summer to provide us with more flexibility and allow us to utilize our buildings to effectively meet our educational goals," Deputy Superintendent Doug Eccarius said.
In a presentation to the school board this week, district officials said they are preparing for students at all grade levels to return to school for full days, five days a week.
Gone are the weekly e-learning days, the block scheduling for high schoolers, the shortened in-person hours, and the "rooming and zooming" that required educators to simultaneously teach classroom and remote learners.
Students will be able to participate in all core subjects, electives and even lunch, possibly with some special accommodations to maintain distance requirements, administrators said.
Though eager for circumstances to return to normal, district leaders acknowledged the importance of addressing the social-emotional and academic gaps caused by the pandemic.
The proposed budget for 2021-22 anticipates adding the equivalent of 27.8 full-time positions -- funded through a federal relief grant -- including districtwide coordinators in mental health, literacy and math.
Some of those employees also would help reduce class sizes for kindergarten through second grade, officials said. And at the middle and high school levels, academic coaches, community engagement specialists and interventionists would be hired on a one-year basis to help reach at-risk families.
Extra social-emotional and mental health resources will be available to students at all levels, Eccarius said, noting each school is also implementing plans to assist students who are struggling academically.
Elementary leaders will reach out to families who were unable to be fully engaged this past year, officials said. Kindergartners can participate in a screening and transition day. High schools are offering credit recovery efforts this summer.
Middle schools are developing a program, called "Achieve," that will be coupled with the student's lunch period and is devoted to social-emotional learning and positive academic habits.
Another priority is integrating additional science, technology, engineering and math opportunities at the elementary level, while also expanding existing programs in middle and high schools, Eccarius said.
As state guidance changes and district plans evolve throughout the summer, board member Justin Karubas stressed the importance of providing consistent updates to families and educators -- even as they take a much-needed break, he said.
"The district has plans for the fall based upon the current guidance, and the district has plans for some of the anticipated changes," Karubas said. "Ultimately, I think the communication piece is going to be key."