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Local News

Yorkville 7th-12th grade students may have instruction method choice amid pandemic

File photo: A Yorkville High School student works on an assignment during the first day of school for the 2018-2019 school year.
File photo: A Yorkville High School student works on an assignment during the first day of school for the 2018-2019 school year.

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YORKVILLE – Families of Yorkville School District 115 students from seventh through 12th grades may get 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, evening meeting for parents and guardians that, as long as Kendall County remains in Phase 4, students could choose to pursue a full-time in person option, hybrid learning or full e-learning for the fall.

However, 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 the state goes back a phase or two of its Restore Illinois plan.

“There could potentially come a time where the governor issues the order to move back into Phase 1, 2 or 3, or perhaps we have an outbreak in Kendall County or here in Yorkville, where the health and safety of our students and staff becomes paramount where we would need to move into an e-learning model,” Baughman said.

With hybrid learning, Baughman said, Yorkville Middle School students could choose which groups of classes – whether it's their core classes or electives – to attend in person or online. He said students would then be grouped accordingly schedule-wise.

For example, Baughman said, if students wanted to attend core classes in person first thing in the day, they might be assigned to the team that would have that instruction in person from 7:33 to 11:45 a.m., go home for lunch and then participate in physical education and electives from home.

For high school hybrid learning, Baughman said, students would attend classes on an alternating block schedule on site for two days in a row, then engage in classes online for the following two school days and the two-week cycle repeats. He said that would mean students would have five days of in person instruction and five days of e-learning over a two week period.

“This allows us to basically have approximately half of the student population on the campus at any given time, which will then give us more opportunity for cleaning, for effective social distancing and smaller in person classes,” Baughman said.

Baughman said district officials believe the plan to give families the three choices puts the district in more of a position for students to move through the curriculum at their own pace.

“Meaning, if I’m a student who does not do very well in my geometry class but I am extremely talented in one of my social studies courses, I could work through my social studies course and potentially finish that course early, giving me more time to focus on the course in which I need more time to focus on," Baughman said.

The middle school and high school updates come after district officials told elementary school families earlier on Tuesday the district is considering allowing those from early childhood through sixth grades to choose between the three options for at least the first quarter of the coming school year.

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 had 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 had 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 had said.

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 officials said more information, including full recordings of the Tuesday parent presentations and draft return-to-school plan documents, is be available on the district’s website at y115.org.

District superintendent Tim Shimp had 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 had 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 had said.

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