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Lake Zurich Unit School District 95 borders Barrington CUSD 220 as seen on the map above (click to enlarge).

About two-thirds of students in Lake Zurich Unit School District 95 will spend at least part of their time in classrooms this fall, according to district officials working to develop safety precautions before school begins.

The school board last week unanimously approved plans that give parents the option to choose either at-home learning or a hybrid of in-person and at-home learning.

Jean Malek, the district’s director of communications, said about 32% of students overall selected full e-learning. Malek said 35% of elementary school students, 32% of middle school students and 28% of high school students will attend all classes electronically.

To allow time for school officials to create schedules, assign staffing and determine transportation routes, parents had until the end of July to decide.

Regardless of choice, e-learning classes are scheduled to begin for every student in the district on Aug. 24, with the beginning of in-person classes staggered by grade level. In-person start dates are: special education on Aug. 24, kindergarten through second grade on Sept. 8, third through sixth on Sept. 14, seventh through ninth on Sept. 28, and high school sophomores through seniors on Oct. 5.

In the time since the school board decided to offer a hybrid model, some of the biggest school districts in the state — including Chicago Public Schools and U-46 — have elected to conduct classes remotely. Nearby districts such as Barrington Area Unit District 220 and Round Lake Area Unit District 116 both will start the year with remote learning only.

Read more from the Daily Herald here.

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Public health guidelines combined with district survey results has led to Barrington School District 220 now moving to start the new academic year with remote-only learning, district officials said.

“I have this constant struggle between my head and my heart,” Superintendent Brian Harris during a special board meeting Tuesday. “We know having kids in our schools is the best place for them but there are significant reasons why we cannot right now.”

Initially, the district had three plans for starting the 2020-2021 school year which included having students in-person at school buildings, distance learning and a hybrid mix of both.

Harris released an entirely remote learning plan to parents July 29 and talked about it during the special meeting Tuesday – which was held in-person and broadcast on the district’s YouTube social media channel.

The superintendent offered an overview on the new plan and the reasoning behind it. Seventeen people, in total, shared their concerns with the board in person, remotely and by email. A town hall meeting was planned for Aug. 6 to answer any additional questions.

Read the Barrington Courier-Review/Tribune spin on Tuesday’s meeting here.

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In just a few days, we have witnessed some very troubling communications decisions made by the District 220 Board of Education and their Superintendent. Some call it censorship, but it’s up to readers to decide that after considering some facts.

Tuesday night, upwards of 1,500 people tuned in to a live stream YouTube broadcast of a special meeting of the District 220 Board that began at 6:30 PM and lasted nearly three hours. For the first half hour of the meeting, a few participants checked off under on-line comments whether they liked or disliked what was being discussed (as seen in the graphic below).

Sometime after 7:00 the ratings were deleted and viewers could no longer register their opinion.

From the start of the meeting, participants were feverishly texting comments on what Superintendent Brian Harris was saying, and more often than not, the texts were much more insightful and interesting than Harris’ canned presentation.

Many of the texts were critical of the District, and around 7:00 PM, the texts were also silenced. The trail of comments were deleted as seen below.

It is also worth noting that the standard YouTube feature of free-form comments was also turned off. To view what we’ve described thus far, click here to view the recording of Tuesday’s meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, District 220 sent out a mass email with a link to a two hour Vimeo recording of the Tuesday meeting (seen here). However, the emailed recording failed to include over forty-five minutes of public comment from community members who waited patiently for two hours for their turn to speak their minds.

There is no question in our minds that the 220 Board of Education, but much more so Superintendent Brian Harris, failed to manage the expectations of parents, students and teachers in the months leading up to the unexpected announcement that fall classes would be all-remote learning last week.

As a result, the parties involved are upset and deserve to have their voices heard. For them to be silenced in the ways we’ve documented is tantamount to censorship.

Note: Those wishing to view the email sent by Dr. Harris yesterday can click here.

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The following is from Brian Harris:

“The district leadership team is also holding a virtual town hall on Thursday, August 6 from 6:30pm-8:30pm to answer questions.

During the first half hour of the zoom meeting, I will share details in a presentation. During the remainder of the meeting community members will be able to ask questions and receive answers in real time from myself, principals and several other district administrators.”

Town hall link: https://barrington220.zoom.us/j/86115363666

If you would prefer to phone in to the meeting, dial 312-626-6799, and use Town Hall ID 861 1536 3666 when prompted.

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Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris went into great detail about why distance learning will be used to start the 2020-21 school year, but parents and students voiced their concerns at a meeting Tuesday night.

Like a growing number of suburban school systems, District 220 last week reversed course on its plan to let parents choose between in-person and online classes. Harris said the remote learning will go to at least Oct. 16.

A maximum 50 people were allowed to attend Tuesday night’s meeting in the Barrington Middle School-Station Campus cafeteria. Some parents held signs outside the school entrance showing their displeasure with the decision to start 2020-21 with the distance learning.

District 220 officials said two significant problems emerged as they planned to bring back students last month: the inability to maintain social distancing and meeting staffing needs.

Harris said that while a survey showed 70% of parents wanted their children in school, about 50% of the district’s staff had concerns about returning to work. He said a longtime contract clause states teachers cannot be forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Read more here.

Editorial notes: As many as 1,500 people tuned in to the meeting at times. “Like” verses “Dislike” ratings by audience members were even until 220 turned the feature off.

Finally, text chat comments posted by audience members were frequent and often very critical of 220 until they turned the feature off to silence their critics at around 7:00 as seen below:

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The District 220 Board of Education will holding a very special meeting this evening at 6:30 PM at the Barrington Middle School Station Campus. A copy of their agenda can be viewed here.

Due to public health guidelines, capacity will be limited to 50 people in the cafeteria at a time. Another 50 people will be able to watch the live stream of the meeting from the Station library. Any additional people will be asked to wait outside the building and will be called in if they signed up for public comment.

Masks are required if you choose to attend the meeting in person.

If you are not able to watch the meeting live, the video will remain on our YouTube channel to watch at any time. 

Related: “District 220 announces school year to start “primarily” via distance learning; some say board caved to teacher’s union

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Though not on their agenda, our Board of Trustees had a general discussion and provided updates on the “InZone” topic at their July meeting. We found the information enlightening, and we encourage residents to take less than ten minutes to listen in on some history and where things stood last week in the matter.

The link to the recording of their discussion can be accessed here.

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District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris

After announcing earlier this month that the new school year would start in-person with an option for remote learning, Barrington School District 220 officials revised that Wednesday and said it will now be all virtual.

“As guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health, county health departments, and other health organizations continue to evolve, we have concluded the ‘Roadmap to Reopening’ as presented at the July 14 Board of Education meeting is not attainable,” Superintendent Brian Harris said in an electronic letter to parents and stakeholders distributed Wednesday.

Following that July 14 meeting, district families were given about 10 days to decide whether their children would attend school in-person – wearing masks – or spend five hours a day doing distance learning when the new academic year starts Aug. 20.

That had been the message Harris delivered at the board meeting as he presented the district’s Roadmap to Reopening plan to board members and nearly 900 viewers who watched the virtual meeting on YouTube. He said then that, “we really want to get all our kids back in a safe environment.”

But in his notification Tuesday, Harris said the only option, for now, is to drop the plan for kids to return to the school buildings.

Read the Chicago Tribune account of what happened here.

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District 220 issued to following statement:

“Dear Barrington 220 community,

I appreciate your patience and understanding as we have been navigating Barrington 220’s Roadmap to Reopening for the 2020-21 school year. Thank you to all of the stakeholder groups who have provided the district with feedback and asked questions over the past several weeks. As you can imagine, each family has its own unique situation and there are many factors to consider which not only impact our students and staff, but also the entire Barrington area community.

Over the past couple of months our administrators, teaching staff and support staff have worked together to figure out the best ways to educate our students, given this uncertain reality we all face. Board members have also provided input during Board meetings.

As guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), county health departments, and other health organizations continue to evolve, we have concluded the Roadmap to Reopening as presented at the July 14 Board of Education meeting is not attainable. Starting the 2020-21 school year in a primarily Distance Learning environment is necessary in order to meet current public health guidelines and keep all students and staff healthy. This is an extremely difficult decision and while I know many families and staff will welcome the change, I realize many others will not.

The Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting to review revisions to Barrington 220’s Roadmap to Reopening and provide further context about the district’s Distance Learning guidelines, which may be adjusted based on further guidance from the agencies listed above.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, August 4 in the BMS-Station cafeteria. Due to public health guidelines, capacity will be limited to 50 people in the room. Masks are required if you choose to attend the meeting in person. Click here if you would like to watch the meeting live on YouTube.

I am confident we will maintain excellent teaching and learning in Barrington 220, while we provide a safe and healthy environment for students and staff. We will continue updating the community as the situation changes.”

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After initially announcing plans to welcome students back to campus when school opens next month, Barrington Area Unit District 220 officials reversed course Wednesday and announced they would offer only remote learning when classes resume.

Reversing course on its plan to let parents choose between in-person and online classes, Barrington Area Unit School District 220 announced Wednesday that it would offer only remote learning when school opens next month.

In a message to the school community announcing the change, Superintendent Brian Harris said officials concluded that the original plan to welcome some students back on campus is not attainable.

“This is an extremely difficult decision and while I know many families and staff will welcome the change, I realize many others will not,” Harris wrote.

The remote learning plan is necessary to meet current public health guidelines and keep all students and staff healthy, he added.

Read more from the Daily Herald here.

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