YORKVILLE – Yorkville School District 115 officials are considering allowing families of students from early childhood through sixth grades to choose the type of instruction they would like to have for at least the first quarter of the coming school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nick Baughman, District 115 associate superintendent for learning and instruction, said during the Tuesday, July 14, afternoon meeting for parents and guardians that the district is fully preparing to give families the choice of their preferred educational model for the coming fall.
“Be it full face-to-face, be it the [hybrid] learning experience ... and also an e-learning environment,” Baughman said.
According to district documents, the face-to-face option would involve students returning to school full time for full days, while also following health and safety protocols, including reporting whether they have been showing any symptoms of illness before entering the school, wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing.
The e-learning model would include students completing five hours of instruction daily that would involve a combination of pre-recorded videos, Zoom calls, small-group virtual work and independent practice, according to district officials. The model includes 150 minutes of English language arts with integrated science and social studies instruction, along with 90 minutes of math, 30 minutes of special subjects, such as art and music, and 30 minutes of independent physical education. An hour and a half is set for live instruction Zoom every day.
The hybrid blended learning model would include early childhood through eighth grade students attending school in person for half the school day, either in the morning or afternoon, and then practicing math and reading skills online for two additional hours at home, according to district documents. The hybrid option for high school students would include alternating days of in-person attendance.
Baughman said hybrid students would have the same teacher for the face-to-face and e-learning portions of the day. He also said district officials will work to have hybrid students from the same family have the same day part schedule.
District officials said more information, including full recordings of the Tuesday parent presentations and draft return-to-school plan documents, will be available on the district’s website, y115.org, on Wednesday. Families would need to commit to the choice for nine weeks and would have until July 31 to decide, according to district officials.
Pete Marcelo, the district’s assistant superintendent of student and business services, said the district will work with the families of students with individualized educational plans, or IEPs, and 504 plans. He said parents would need to supply a doctor’s note for a student to wear a face shield if the student refuses to wear a face mask.
Marcelo also said parents who may not be able to reach out to case managers in time before the choice deadline may contact district officials, including himself, with any questions they may have.
“We’re going to work with you to try to make this happen,” Marcelo said.
Baughman said the district would go back to an e-learning model that would look a little different from what the district had last quarter of the previous school year in the event that the state goes back to Phase 1, 2 or 3.
Marcelo said district officials also are looking to train staff and students on pivoting policies to immediately switch to total e-learning if need be, including advising students and families what will need to be brought home daily if schools were to close again.
The update comes after school district officials previously said the hope was to have a finalized plan to present to the district’s Board of Education during their 7 p.m. July 27 meeting.
In the event of a staff member or student testing positive for COVID-19, district officials said they would not explicitly disclose who was ill, but will immediately communicate with staff, students and families about the situation. They also said they would work with health officials with contact tracing and to provide guidance to those who may be affected.
District 115 Superintendent Tim Shimp said there might be situations where an individual, groups, grade levels or courses could be affected by one case, along with entire buildings shutting down. He said there probably will come a time where school officials would have to tell a classroom or a small group of kids that they will be on e-learning for two weeks because of exposure concerns.
“It’s not a fun conversation, it sickens me to think, but it’s the reality of it,” Shimp said. “But we’re going to be prepared. We’re going to communicate, we’re going to be open and transparent and we’re going to get through it together, and we’re going to have a plan.”
Shimp said the district has been working on plans for the fall since May and he believes the district has a good plan for the fall – however, it’s not finalized. He said the school district still needs partnership with families in order to make work whatever arrangement the district will move forward with.
“We need your grace, we need your flexibility and we need you patience as the new year embarks upon us,” Shimp said.