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Ellie Luciano adjusts her backpack while keeping a physical distance form her peers at Wiesbrook Elementary in Wheaton

A bellwether for school reopening efforts in the pandemic, elementary classrooms in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 welcomed back students two weeks ago for the first time in more than 170 days.

As of Tuesday, the district has reported at least four students and one employee have tested positive for the coronavirus. But the district hasn’t identified any close contacts with those cases across the 13 elementary schools. Administrators credit physical distancing measures for helping to thwart the spread of the virus.

After months of enormous challenges preparing for an in-person start, the district still faces the complicated task of keeping the doors open in elementary schools. It’s also one of the major suburban districts pushing for at least a mix of face-to-face and virtual learning for middle and high school students.

Elmhurst Unit District 205 is providing another template, gradually sending students back to schools. On Monday, elementary students moved to a hybrid schedule. Sixth and ninth grades will follow suit Sept. 21. Populations of students with special needs also are now receiving on-campus instruction.

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300’s school board will vote next Tuesday on the district’s learning plan for the second quarter.

District 300 originally had planned on starting the year in-person but switched to remote learning. Now the administration recommends moving elementary, middle and high schools to a hybrid schedule for the second quarter beginning Oct. 13.

Read more here.

Editorial notes: During last night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Brian Harris gave no date for reopening 220 schools even at a hybrid level much to the frustration of parents and students who spoke during the meeting.  

One could sense the frustration on the part of board members, but all Harris seemed to want to do was talk about metrics, doing more surveys and fumble with his PowerPoint slides. Meanwhile, only 80% of teachers and staff are willing to work on 220 property while the rest work elsewhere.

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Demonstrators hold signs along Harnish Road Tuesday during a rally for the reopening for in-person learning at the Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 Central Office in Algqonquin. (Matthew Apgar/Shaw Media)

Saying that remote learning has not been successful, a group of concerned parents and students from Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 rallied outside the Center Office asking district officials to reopen to in-person learning.

District 300 has been remote since the beginning of the year because of COVID-19.

Several speakers at the rally said they were worried for children’s mental health and the social isolation they might feel from not seeing their friends.

One Algonquin resident, Sharon Vandermeir, said her grandchild, in kindergarten, is not learning anything.

“She gets distracted easily, she’s bored, she doesn’t like to sit in front of a computer for six hours a day,” Vandermeir said. “The kids need an education, and Zoom is not an education.”

Read more here.

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Westminster Christian School in Elgin

Parochial schools across the suburbs are resuming classes either fully in-person or with hybrid instructional models even as most Illinois public schools begin the school year with remote learning.

They’re making the transition with temperature checks, face masks, social distancing, an abundance of hand sanitizers and other safety measures required by state education and health authorities, coupled with smaller class sizes, virtual learning platforms and one-to-one technology.

“What we are able to do that the public schools can’t do is meet our community and our students where they are,” said Erik Schwartz, high school principal of Westminster Christian School in Elgin which started classes Thursday. “The public school (system) is too expansive. They’ve got to make policies that fit the entire state or entire district, whereas we get to make policies that are for our school and for our community.”

Under a flexible hybrid model, a majority of Westminster Christian’s 260 students in preschool through 12th grade attend classes in person while roughly 20 students synchronously learn from home. Class sizes are between 15 and 20 students, and students can switch between in-person and remote instruction for health reasons or due to other circumstances. In school, students must wear masks regardless of distancing except when eating or excused with a doctor’s note.

Read more here.

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Hundreds of thousands of suburban children are resuming schoolwork within the next few weeks, but this year fewer than 6,200 of them will go back to their classrooms full time.

Only 9 of 105 suburban districts are offering “in-person” learning, the Illinois State Board of Education reports.

Another 30 of the suburban school districts will open with a “blended” model, where students are split into two groups and alternate between remote learning and in-class sessions.

The remaining 66 suburban school districts will have full-time remote learning, with kids having classes exclusively online.

Those opening for in-person learning are:

  • Butler Elementary District 53 in Oak Brook
  • Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89
  • Grass Lake Elementary District 36 in Antioch
  • Itasca Elementary District 10
  • Medinah Elementary District 11
  • Rondout Elementary District 72 in Lake Forest
  • Roselle Elementary District 12
  • Rosemont Elementary District 78, and
  • West Northfield Elementary District 31 in Northbrook

Read more from the Daily Herald here,

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The Barrington Hills portion of the District 300 attendance boundary is outlined above.

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 leaders have reversed an earlier plan to reopen schools for in-person instruction and instead will start the school year Aug. 17 with fully remote learning due a rise in COVID-19 cases in Kane County.

Originally, officials had hoped to bring back elementary and middle school students to a normal five-day schedule with some modifications while high schools followed a hybrid model.

Evolving guidance from state education and health officials and an increase in COVID-19 cases across the region forced the district to reevaluate in-person instruction.

For now, the district plans to be in remote learning mode for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade through the first quarter, which ends Oct. 9.

Read more here.

Editorial note: Make no mistake, District 220 and now District 300’s decisions in less than 24 hours to scrap their plans for some classroom education this fall are primarily union driven.

 

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the unusual step Thursday of preemptively filing a lawsuit to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen in a few weeks.

The action filed late Thursday in Sangamon County Circuit Court by the state attorney general seeks a judge’s approval of Pritzker’s order that schoolchildren, teachers and staff wear coverings over mouths and noses among other measures to reduce the chance that the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus can spread.

It’s typical for the governor to be in court as a defendant seeking validation of a policy or action. In this instance, no lawsuit has been filed, but a public school district and two private academies have informed the Illinois State Board of Education that Pritzker no longer has authority under emergency rule-making to require face masks in schools and that they will be developing their own safety rules.

It was time to get ahead of the issue, Ann Spillane, Pritzker’s chief legal counsel, told The Associated Press.

Read more here.

 

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Illinois schools, which have been shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will now be allowed to hold in-person summer school, thanks to an executive order issued Thursday afternoon by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

But many area school systems — including Chicago Public Schools — have already announced that summer school will be held through remote learning, so it’s not immediately clear if such districts will change course.

The order states that all Illinois public and nonpublic elementary and high schools can open for “limited in-person educational purposes” once the regular school year ends. They can also continue providing food and other services, but must follow guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health as the state moves through the third phase of its reopening plan.

Any school that reopens must take safety measures that include anyone older than 2 years old wearing face masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment. Also, the number of people in a space will be limited to 10, maintaining a 6-foot distance between them. Physical contact and sharing of personal items is discouraged, and students and staff must adhere to regular hand washing and other cleaning and hygiene practices.

Read more here.

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McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks sent a news release Friday requesting the state of Illinois move McHenry County into another “health region” in the governor’s Restore Illinois plan to allow its business and commerce to open sooner.

The Restore Illinois plan, a road map with five phases designed to gradually bring the state out of quarantine, was announced by Gov. JB Pritzker during a news conference Tuesday.

It divides Illinois into four regions where commerce, schools and other functions can slowly be allowed to reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic threat subsides.

McHenry County is in the northeast region, according to these guidelines, which includes Cook and the collar counties.

Franks said McHenry County’s “much lower number of infections and deaths” makes it a better fit for the neighboring region, which encompasses 27 counties in northwestern and central Illinois.

Read more here.

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Dundee-Crown’s Makayla Gotter (25) secures an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter of the IHSA Class 4A Huntley Sectional championship game at Huntley High School on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, in Huntley, Ill. Dundee-Crown won, 43-37. (Daryl Quitalig / for Shaw Media Illinois)

The bigger the moment the better Dundee-Crown played Thursday night in a noisy and nearly packed gym at the Class 4A Huntley sectional title game.

That certainly was true for junior Alyssa Crenshaw who buried an 18-foot jumper with her team trailing Barrington by a point in the final two minutes.

Teammate Payton Schmidt proved just as clutch moments later at the free-throw line. She sank 3-of-4 in the last 37 seconds to clinch a 43-37 victory and the school’s first sectional championship since 2003.

Read more here.

Note: Some residents don’t realize (or seldom remember) that a small portion of Barrington Hills falls into District 300, particularly Dundee-Crown High School, making this something (though minor) of a Village rivalry. Congratulations to the Dundee-Crown Chargers!

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Hoffman Estates village board members voted 6-1 Monday to approve a tax incentive to spark economic development on 64 acres along the village’s stretch of Higgins Road west of The Arboretum of South Barrington shopping center.

A larger, 185-acre area of the same site at the northwest corner of Higgins Road and Route 59 has been the subject of the concept plan for the controversial Plum Farms mixed-use development that’s been idle for the past 2½ years since a lawsuit was filed over its residential density.

That lawsuit was originally filed by residents of the nearby Regency of the Woods of South Barrington retirement community. After Barrington Unit District 220 intervened in the suit on the side of the residents, the retirement community settled its portion.

Last month, District 220’s own lingering case was dismissed by a judge based on a legal precedent. But at its next meeting on Jan. 14, school the board intends to choose among its options to file a motion for reconsideration, file a notice of appeal or let the judge’s ruling lie, Superintendent Brian Harris said.

Read more here.

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