July 24: Decision to start year remotely

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July 24: Decision to start year remotely



Dear District 57 Families, 

The School Board has directed District 57 administration to move forward with the plan of holding full remote learning when school resumes on Aug. 20 and phasing in a hybrid model on Oct. 19 if it is deemed safe at that time.

This decision was made at last night’s special Board meeting, where we presented additional options for the coming school year. As you know, the Readiness Plan we presented last week outlined a choice between full in-person learning or remote learning. This was the plan we thought was best at the time, after researching many different approaches and analyzing the stakeholder feedback we received up to that point. However, the situation has continued to evolve. We have read hundreds of emails from staff and parents over the past week, and we’ve continued to look at the public health situation in our area and the state.

Taking all of this into account, and in an effort to be as flexible and responsive as possible, we developed the additional scenarios and indicated that it is our opinion that remote learning is the safest and most sustainable option at this time. Our union leaders – Elizabeth Straczek and Loretta Rose (MPEA) and Philene Fotopoulos and Elin Lonergan (MPESPA) – also participated in the Board meeting and shared that the majority of staff feels that starting with remote learning is the best and only option from a safety perspective. After asking many questions and having an in-depth discussion, Board members unanimously agreed.

This model has the following advantages:

  • It eliminates the risk of a major health crisis in the first couple months.
  • It gives us the opportunity to implement an across-the-board robust online program that mirrors the regular school day.
  • It enables us to prepare for a safe return to in-person learning in October, or as soon as possible.
  • It addresses concerns that staff members have raised about their own safety, as well as the disruption that could occur if a teacher is forced to quarantine and a sub must teach a class for the long term – or, even worse, if there are no subs available. We believe remote learning is the most sustainable option because we will face staff shortages with an in-person or hybrid model.
  • Also, it’s important to note that we are seeing increasing numbers of Districts moving to this approach over the past several days, including District 46 and Stevenson and Evanston Township High Schools. We expect more will follow suit.

More than 500 community members tuned into the Board meeting last night. Those who missed it can go to the District’s COVID-19 page to find a recording of the full meeting, as well as the slides that were presented. I call your attention to slides 25-29, which outline our remote learning approach and potential schedules for each school. Here are our next steps:

  • We will continue to work with the Staff/Administrator Task Force to plan remote learning and focused professional development. We will communicate additional remote learning details as they are available.
  • We want to understand if our families have any internet/accessibility issues, so we are asking everyone to fill out the survey at this link. We will provide assistance as needed. In addition, all students in preschool through 8th grade will receive Chromebooks.
  • We will explore potential childcare offerings for working parents who do not have other options. This is not guaranteed. We are in the early stages of exploring this possibility.
  • Parents/guardians no longer need to fill out the enrollment form that was circulated last week. They, as well as staff, will instead take a survey to identify which hybrid option they prefer (when we are ready to phase in that model). This survey will be distributed in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your patience and input as we develop the best possible solutions for starting the school year under these very difficult and evolving circumstances!

Dr. Elaine Aumiller

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