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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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Authorities estimate that about 500 people turned out for the “Barrington Back-to-School Rally” Sept. 14, 2020 at Citizens Park in Barrington.. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

Hundreds of people packed the lawn at Citizens Park in Barrington Monday, protesting against continuation of remote learning and calling for officials to allow students to play fall sports.

Barrington police estimated that 500 people attended the “Barrington Back-to-School Rally” and officers were out on foot and directed traffic ahead of the anticipated audience turnout.

The rally was to advocate to get children back to school in person.

“I want my kids to be in school,” said parent Erin Matta, of Barrington.

Amid ongoing concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, some school districts – including nationwide – opted to start the 2020-2021 academic year with students doing remote learning.

E-learning was a hot topic at the rally in Barrington Monday and the subject of adverse signage.

Read the Chicago Tribune/Barrington Courier-Review coverage of the rally here.

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The Barrington 220 Board of Education is meeting tonight at 7:00 PM at 515 West Main Street. A copy of their agenda can be viewed here.

The board is not scheduled to meet again until October 6th, so those wishing to comment publicly on current topics of interest would be advised to attend and speak. For those who cannot attend, meetings are streamed on YouTube, and the link can be found here.

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Parents in Barrington Area Unit District 220 said at a rally Monday evening at Citizens Park in Barrington that remote learning is a struggle no matter how much they try to help. (John Starks | Staff Photographer)

Holding signs like “Schools not screens” and “Stop playing politics, start playing ball,” more than 200 parents and students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 took part in a rally Monday evening asking the district to allow in-person schooling and sports.

District officials have said that students will be doing remote learning until at least Oct. 16. The “Let Them Play” rally at Citizens Park in Barrington asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker to “get our athletes on the field and kids back in the classrooms.”

Among the organizers were parents Jerry and Heather Ewalt of Barrington, who have four children in elementary, middle and high school in the district and said families should be given a choice between e-learning and sending their kids to school.

“Why are they not in school? They should be there,” Jerry Ewalt said. “I am asking for a choice. I understand some people are not going to be comfortable with going into school, and that’s OK.”

A survey conducted by the district earlier this summer showed 70% of parents wanted their children in school, he pointed out. “So why are they not in school?” he said, getting applause and cheering from the crowd.

The survey also showed about 50% of the district’s staff had concerns about returning to work.

Read more here.

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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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Students lined the front row at a rally at Memorial Park in Wheaton Tuesday to demand in-person schooling be allowed.

As students across the Western suburbs begin the school year with remote learning, hundreds of parents rallied in a downtown Wheaton park Tuesday night to demand that students be allowed to return to classrooms and youth sports.

Parents of student-athletes in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 organized the demonstration to increase pressure on school systems to make the leap to in-person instruction even as coronavirus case counts continue to climb in much of the region, particularly among young people. DuPage County has registered more than 1,300 new infections within the past 14 days.

The gathering in Wheaton’s Memorial Park drew participants from as far away as Mokena and Orland Park, Western Springs and Huntley.

Along with students, some teachers and coaches, parents at the rally made the case for reopening classrooms, arguing that the loss of social interaction in schools hurts their children’s emotional, mental and social well-being.

“Any parent could tell you that it’s not good for kids to be staring at a screen for 25 hours a week,” said Eric Brown, a parent of five children learning from home in District 200. “It’s not good for the kids. It’s not good for the teachers and what they do best.”

Read more here.

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