YORKVILLE – Despite some concerns brought up during a Yorkville School District 115 Board of Education work session meeting this week, district families will still have their choice of 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.
Following discussion regarding the plans during the district's school board work session meeting on Monday, July 20, the Board of Education is set to vote on the fall plans during their regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, July 27. The current plan allows families of students within the school district to choose between full-time in-person learning, hybrid learning or full e-learning for the fall.
Nick Baughman, District 115 associate superintendent for learning and instruction, said Monday the only changes that were made were clarity and simplicity of what exactly the options would entail. He said all three options remain available for all grades within the district.
"We still want options for families," Baughman said.
Yorkville district officials previously held parent informational meetings on Tuesday, July 14, on what returning to school in the fall potentially would look like for elementary and grade school students, along with middle and high school students. District officials also outlined what lunch, bus and overall cleaning and sanitizing policies would look like for the fall throughout the two presentations.
Baughman's comments on Monday came after district staff clarified that, regardless of which learning models they're in, students still will be learning the same materials and moving through the curriculum at the same time and being subject to the same deadlines. Students online just may be required to tune into a 9 a.m. Zoom call for a lecture as opposed to physically showing up for class at a specific time, staff said.
School board member Shawn Schumacher said he believes hybrid or online learning can be done well, but it's important to have ways to hold students accountable for completing what they need to for the e-learning side of things. If that accountability isn't held, he said, that's how learning gaps between students learning online and students learning face-to-face are going to happen.
"And we've got to stay away from that," Schumacher said.
District superintendent Tim Shimp said high school officials cannot have teachers providing two lesson plans for the same class.
"Because then we're looking at contractual issues and we have to be mindful of that," Shimp said.
School board vice-president Bob Brenart said his concerns include contact time with longer block schedule periods for each in-person class under the proposed plan. He said he understands the need for some students who have to have face-to-face instruction every day.
"I just don't see just how that poor teacher's going to work that out," Brenart said, referring to the two lesson plans for one lesson concern.
When school board members were asked what their thoughts were about starting the school year with just e-learning, Brenart said, he thinks district staff would need to simplify the high school hybrid model. He said he understands how younger students and some high school student groups would need face-to-face learning every day.
"At this [high school] age group, many of them shouldn't need it," Brenart said.
School board members also requested to see sample lesson plans and sample schedules for the instruction options for a better understanding of how the models would look in practice.
Dr. Gary Katula, member of the Yorkville School District 115 Board of Education and a doctor who specializes in family medicine through Rush Copley Medical Group, was not present for the Monday discussion.
If the school board votes to approve the plan July 27, Baughman said, the intent is for staff to send out the surveys for district families to fill out for their instruction choice for each grade level on July 28. For families who do not fill out the survey for the district, students in early childhood through eighth grade will be placed in face-to-face learning by default and students in ninth through 12th grades will be placed in the hybrid option by default.
After the district gets those survey responses back, Baughman said, "we'll have more detailed information about the program offerings and the numbers of students that are choosing certain models."
Baughman said he still asks families to remain flexible as the district moves forward in planning for the fall. He said things change very rapidly in the current pandemic environment.
"We as a school community are going to do our best to provide a high level of education and give families choice in what educational model they want," Baughman said.