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Editorial note: September 25th we reported, “220’s Harris announces target start date for return to in-person Hybrid moved up to Oct. 19.

Barrington Area Unit District 220 students will return to some in-person learning Oct. 19 — a week earlier than initially planned — school officials said Tuesday.

Students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 can go back to school Oct. 19 — a week earlier than anticipated — with a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning, if all proceeds well, district officials said.

About 68% of families in the district said they plan to send kids back to school with hybrid learning — a blend of in-person and remote learning — while 31% are opting to continue with only remote learning, which the district will provide for whoever wants it. About 1% remain undecided.

However, the breakdown varies a lot by school, Superintendent Brian Harris told the district’s board of education Tuesday night.

Barrington High School and the two middle schools largely mirror the district average. But at Hough Elementary School, as many as 89% of families are choosing hybrid learning, while at Sunny Hill Elementary, only 30% are doing so.

A total of 44 certified staff members asked for a leave of absence after the district announced its hybrid plan, Harris said. Fifteen of those positions were filled and nine are being filled, but 20 staff members that teach in “highly specialized areas” are hard to replace, Harris said.

The district will continue looking for replacements, but meanwhile the plan is to reassign or hire staff members to supervise students in classrooms while their teachers continue virtual instruction, he said.

Nine people, mostly parents, spoke at the board meeting Tuesday to advocate reopening immediately for full in-person learning. They cited hardship for families and the negative effects of virtual learning on students’ performance and mental health.

Our district is spiraling downward. Our children are regressing and losing knowledge,” parent Heather Ewalt said. Ewalt, also a substitute teacher in the district, said teachers say in private they have the same concerns.

Read on here.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health is sponsoring a regional drive-through and walk-up COVID-19 test site outside in the Barrington High School parking lot. The testing will take place on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 9am-5pm and Sunday, Oct. 11 from 9am-5pm. 

Click here for more information.

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The Barrington CUSD 220 Board of Education meets this evening at 7:00 PM at 515 West Main StA copy of their agenda can be viewed here.

This will be the last scheduled meeting of the Board prior to some students returning to classrooms on October 19th (see220’s Harris announces target start date for return to in-person Hybrid moved up to Oct. 19”). Those wishing to watch the meeting remotely can do so by clicking here.

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On Monday, Sept. 28 Barrington 220 held a virtual parent Q&A session about the district’s plans to return to in-person learning in a Hybrid mode. Parents were able to ask questions and get answers in real time from principals and other district administrators.

As a reminder, the deadline for all families to log in to Infinite Campus and select either the Hybrid plan or continue with Distance Learning until winter break is Wednesday, September 30 at 11:59pm (a deadline of Nov. 30 was emailed in error earlier today).

For more information, visit: barrington220.org/coronavirus.

To watch the Q&A video, click here.

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“Dear Barrington 220 Community:

First and foremost, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding since starting the school year with Distance Learning. I know this has been a very difficult time for our community on many different levels.

At the September 15 Board of Education meeting I explained the metrics Barrington 220 will be using for a safe return to in-person learning. During that meeting I also stated that if all metrics are met, our target date to begin implementing a hybrid model would be October 26 and that if it was possible to begin sooner, we would. 

Today I am letting you know we have finalized our hybrid plans for each level and we are moving that target date up to Monday, October 19. Please keep in mind, this will only happen if all metrics are met to put us in Step 3 (Hybrid) at that time. 

Below you will find links to the hybrid scheduling plans for each level. Please review them carefully. Following this communication, you will receive an email from your child’s principal which further explains the hybrid plan at your school. 

On Monday, Sept. 28 we will send out a message in Infinite Campus, asking you to select to enroll your child in the Hybrid plan or continue with Distance Learning until winter break. Your response will be due on Wednesday, Sept. 30 by 11:59pm. 

I know there will be many questions on this topic. The district is holding a virtual parent meeting on Monday, Sept. 28 at 6:30pm to answer your questions. All principals will be in attendance.

Revised Timeline

  • Monday, Sept. 28: Send parents message in Infinite Campus asking to select Hybrid or Distance Learning and indicate transportation needs until winter break. 
  • Monday, Sept. 28: Virtual Parent Meeting 6:30 PM (Q&A session about Hybrid plans)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30: Parent selections due in Infinite Campus by 11:59pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 6: Update Board of Education on Metrics and Hybrid implementation at Board of Education meeting at 7pm. 
  • *Wednesday, Oct. 14: Non-Student Attendance Day
  • Oct. 14 & 15: ELC, Elementary, Middle School Parent/Teacher Conferences as scheduled
  • Oct. 14 & 15: PSAT Testing Day for juniors/staff development as scheduled
  • Friday, Oct. 16: Non-Student Attendance Day as scheduled
  • Monday, Oct. 19: Launch Hybrid Plan (if metrics allow)

*Please note: Wednesday, October 14 will now be a non-attendance day for students (except juniors choosing to take the PSAT), as staff work in their school buildings to prepare for the Hybrid transition. Therefore, students will not be in attendance Oct. 14, 15 and 16.”

Visit the Barrington 220 website here for further information.

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A crowd gathered at a D300 reopen rally Tuesday to have children return to in-person school at the Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 Central Office on Harnish Road in Algonquin. Ryan (Rayburn/Shaw Media)

While Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300’s board approved bringing kindergarten through third grade students to a hybrid learning model as soon as it is safely possible, grades four through 12 will be remote until their second semester in January.

A specific date for kindergarten through third grade students to go to this hybrid model was not set at the school board meeting Tuesday.

The decision to bring younger students to a hybrid model earlier is because kindergarten through third-graders are at what board members say is a “pivotal” time in their education, and it is the age group that is struggling with remote learning the most.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, District 300 schools have been learning and teaching remotely since the beginning of the year.

At the meeting, a couple of hybrid models were proposed for kindergarten through high school students in October, although some school board members took issue with making this transition in the middle of the semester.

Read more here.

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Katie Myers teaches English on Thursday at Butler Junior High School in Oak Brook. Brian Hill (Staff Photographer)

It took all summer for Butler Elementary District 53 in Oak Brook to get ready for students to return to the classroom this fall.

Some students opted for remote learning, but about 60% of them returned to the schools. They started with half days, and more than a week ago began all-day in-person learning. The district has been able to avoid any cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff, something Superintendent Paul O’Malley chalks up to the summerlong preparations.

“Overall, to date, it’s been pretty successful,” he said.

District 53 is one of nine suburban public school districts that started the school year with in-person learning. Administrators in several of the nine, which tend to have smaller student populations than many in the suburbs, report their districts remain free of COVID-19. One, Itasca Elementary District 10, is reporting four staff members and as many as five students have contracted the disease since school started Aug. 20. All the cases were contracted out of school, administrators said.

Northbrook Elementary District 28 officials notified parents Tuesday that one person at Greenbriar Elementary has tested positive.

When that happens, state guidelines require that anyone who is within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes must quarantine for 14 days or until medically cleared. Rooms have to be deep-cleaned and health departments are also notified.

“Yes, we have received reports of COVID-19 cases associated with schools — several individual cases and some clusters. Although this is unfortunate, it is not a surprise due to the high levels of community transmission,” said Karen Ayala, director of the DuPage County Health Department, which is not making that data public.

Read more here.

Related:Some elementary students are back in class, and suburban districts are weighing what can come next

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Dr. Brian Harris

A week ago today hundreds of parents and students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 gathered at a rally in Citizens Park to ask the district to allow in-person schooling to resume.

Some spoke while others displayed signs such as, “Open our schools for in-person learning,” or “Face 2 Face learning is essential” (see “I am asking for a choice’: Barrington 220 parents, students rally for in-person learning” and “Hundreds turn out for Barrington rally calling for end to remote learning, restart of student sports”).

A day later on the heals of this assembly of taxpayers, the 220 Board of Education held their last scheduled meeting in September. Some attended to reiterate their concerns during public comment while others objected to the board’s decision to postpone refunding fees taxpayers paid in advance for items such as registration fees, etc (see “District 220 postpones to next year decision on refunding school fees”).

After the public comment, Dr. Brian Harris spoke at length on some new metrics that needed to to be studied and tracked before even considering returning students to classrooms. After he completed his presentation (summarized including a video recording here), he asked the board members for their comments, some of which included:

“Board Secretary Angela Wilcox cited information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on higher suicide rates among young people and the need for social-emotional learning. She joined other board members expressing frustration over what was described as a slow schedule for getting kids back into school buildings.

‘You should have had a plan long ago,’ board member Gavin Newman told Harris.”

There were many more questions and comments directed at Harris. In our opinion, though, the board was going out of there way to be politic with him given their, parents, students and sometimes teachers ever mounting frustration with his handling of the schools situation. But we don’t feel the need to politic with him, so given the mounting frustration most parties have now, we have a suggestion.

Until such time as 220 classrooms reopen to at least hybrid leaning combining classroom and in-person learning, the Board of Education should schedule weekly public meetings with Harris providing timely updates on all progress toward that end. If they need to be Zoom meetings, so be it, but they must happen, because the next scheduled board meeting isn’t until October 6th, and no stakeholder should have to wait that long to discover what new information Harris has then.

If anyone thinks this suggestion is unreasonable, then perhaps they should ask themselves why St. Anne Parish School opened their doors to students late last month as did Saint Viator High School. It’s not divine intervention that opened those schools, just qualified non-union teachers, staff and management (something 220 seems to be lacking).

Finally, a reader wrote, “Maybe the school superintendent should be worried more about the students and their isolated unsafe lock-down than the pampered union teachers, ‘afraid for the unsafe work environment.’” We agree.

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Following is an email message sent yesterday afternoon from District 220:

“At the Sept. 15 Board of Education meeting, Dr. Harris shared a presentation on the metrics which will be used to determine when large groups of students can return to in-person learning. Based on recommendations from a district committee which consulted with medical and public health professionals, Barrington 220 will use five metrics. Each metric will help determine which of the above four steps the district is currently in. The five metrics include the following:

In order to determine the district’s current step, all metrics must be met for a minimum of 10 days, following the trends over that period of time.

  • Example 1: All metrics are in Step 3 for 10 days: the district is in Step 3
  • Example 2: Most metrics are in Step 3 for 10 days, except for one metric in Step 2: the district is in Step 2

The metrics status will be updated every week on Monday afternoon. You will be able to view the updated metrics by visiting this dedicated webpage. Keep in mind, all families will receive notice well in advance of any shift in steps.

Please watch the video seen here as Dr. Harris explain the metrics in depth at the Board meeting.

Timeline:

  • Next two weeks: Finalize Hybrid plan for each level.
  • Oct. 6 Board meeting: share district’s metric status and Hybrid plans
  • Oct. 7-Oct. 20: Conduct family survey (Distance Learning or Hybrid)
  • Resolve operational and staffing issues
  • Oct. 20 Board meeting: verify metrics
  • Oct. 26: “Target” Hybrid start date for all levels

*Please note, this timeline may be accelerated if possible.”

Editorial note: It would be wise to have the teacher’s union sign off on this timeline before any student or parent expectations are mismanaged (again).

 

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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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