Return to School Plan

  • INTRODUCTION

    Beginning March 17, 2020, school districts throughout Illinois were required to close buildings due to the threat of COVID-19. Since that time, the State of Illinois has released the Restore Illinois Plan, which guides regions and the State to reopening.  The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) “strongly encourages” schools to return to in-person learning at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.  It is important to note that these requirements and guidelines are subject to change, pursuant to updated public health guidance, changing public health conditions, and further directives from the ISBE.  This will be a living document with changes being made as recommendations and/or guidelines change from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), etc.

    During the past several months, Unit 5 has worked to gather input from a variety of groups. The District formed a Pandemic Advisory Committee, including parents, staff, union representatives, and community members, to gather feedback while planning for the school year. We have surveyed parents and staff members. Additionally, we've done a lot of reading and listening to guidance from organizations such as the CDC, IDPH, ISBE, and our local health department.  I’d like to thank everyone who either completed one of the surveys and/or who participated in the Pandemic Advisory Committee.  Your input was greatly appreciated and helpful as we developed a plan that meets ISBE and IDPH guidelines while still providing Unit 5 students with a quality education.  This document outlines Unit 5’s plan as of July 27, 2020.  Local and State positivity rates, cases, and regulations may cause the District to make changes to the start of the 2020-21 school year.  

    As we move forward, it is imperative that parents and staff are aware of a few things that will necessitate flexibility. First, some of the ways we “do” school will be different this year.  We will limit visitors entering our buildings and activities being held in our facilities to limit the exposure to our students and staff.  Second, some of the classes will look different in order to keep students and staff safe while following State guidelines.  Lastly, it is very likely that at some point this year we will ALL be remote learning for a period of time as a result of state closure, local closure, local outbreak, or lack of available healthy staff to conduct in-person instruction.  The advance notice for some of these circumstances may be very short and we will do our best to provide families and staff with information as soon as we can.  

    CHANGES TO 2020-21 SCHOOL CALENDAR

    The Unit 5 Board of Education approved the 2020-21 school calendar in January 2020. Some changes have occurred since that time requiring adjustments to the calendar. Election Day (November 3, 2020), will be a state holiday with Governor Pritzker's signing of Senate Bill 1863. This will be a day off of school, and as a result an additional day will be added to the end of the school year. Additionally, the District reviewed ISBE guidance on modifying school calendars to provide teacher institute/planning days at the beginning of the school year. Teachers will participate in professional development August 17-21, which will focus on diversity and inclusion, equity, safety measures during COVID, and remote instruction preparation. Additional calendar changes may be necessary should the public health situation change.

    Here is an overview of what the start of school will look like:

    • August 17 & 18 Teacher Institute Days
    • August 19, 20, 21 Staff Planning Days
    • August 24 Students’ First Day of School K-12+ grades*
    • August 31 Early Learning Students’ First Day

    *Students that do not attend school on Mondays will have their first day of school on Tuesday, August 25th

    INSTRUCTIONAL OPTIONS

    Families will be given two options: In-person learning OR online instruction. In-person learning will be provided at all grades, PreK-12+.  Unit 5 believes that in-person learning is the best option for students who are medically able to return to school. In-person learning provides the greatest opportunity to meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs.  Teachers are able to respond to students' needs and questions in a timely manner based on verbal and non-verbal cues.  The American Pediatrics has stated that schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being. Students need to be around their peers for socialization which in-person learning can provide. In-person learning cannot be replicated through an online curriculum. Online instruction will be offered and is suggested for students who have an underlying health condition which puts them in a high risk category. There may be other reasons why a family might choose online learning (e.g. a family member with an underlying health condition). 

    Next Steps and Deadline for Families

    After reading through this document families will need to decide how their their student(s) will learn 1st semester:

    • In-person learning OR Online learning
      • If in-person learning is selected families will need to decide if they want/need district transportation
    • Families will be asked to complete a Google Form to make their choice for each student.  The form will be made available, and sent to families, after the Return to School Plan is approved by the Board of Education.  The Board of Education meets on Wednesday, July 22.  The form will need to be completed by Wednesday, July 29.  

    IN-PERSON LEARNING

    If you choose in-person instruction, the following requirements will be in place:

    • Wear masks* unless outside or eating
      • Refusal to wear a mask in the building will lead to the student being redirected and then sent home if refusal occurs
      • Repeated refusal will lead to the student being placed into the Online Learning program
    • Daily health certifications (see health and wellness below)
    • Will socially distance to the greatest extent possible 
    • Supplies will be limited to only one person using them as much as possible
    • PE will take place while adhering to the same guidelines listed above and without use of locker rooms at the Junior High and High School (except for swimming classes)

    *Students who are medically unable to wear a mask must provide documentation from a physician.  In these situations a face shield should be worn by the student at all times.  Desk shields will also be placed on these student’s desk/work spaces.  If a face shield cannot be worn the building administrator will work with the family to evaluate if in-person learning is the safest option for the student.  

    Cafeteria

    • Students will be allowed to remove masks when eating or drinking. 
    • Unit 5 will continue to provide breakfast and lunch service.
    • Spacing of students will be arranged to stay under the 50-person threshold. 
    • Additional spaces outside the cafeteria will be utilized, if necessary. It is currently not our plan for students to eat in their classrooms. 

    Instruction

    Teachers will follow Unit 5 curriculum and provide instruction based on grade level and/or course standards while differentiating to meet students’ needs.  

    • PreK:  Students will attend Monday-Friday.  The ½ day program will attend their regular schedule (7:45-10:15 and 11:45-2:15) while the full day PreK program will run from 7:45 am-12:00 pm.  Each day staff will provide families and students with an additional learning activity that they can do at home (approximately 20 minutes).
    • K-5: Students will attend Monday-Friday from 7:45 am- 2:10 pm.  Students are being dismissed 20 minutes earlier than normal to make up lost teacher planning time due to COVID related restrictions. 
      • Buildings may have staggered drop off and pick up times for families that are driving their student(s) to and from school.  This will be handled on a building by building basis to ensure all students are safely entering and exiting the building.
      • Due to the large number of students coming from multiple buildings into junior highs and the need to transport back to their home school, 5th grade band and orchestra will not take place during 1st semester.  We will re-evaluate for the 2nd semester.
    • 6-12+: Students will attend in-person two days a week.  Every Wednesday, students will engage with a teacher remotely for instruction and/or discussion.  The other two days of the week students will engage in self-paced work and learning.  Due to the number of students in each junior high and high school we needed to reduce the number of students physically present at any one time.
      • Mondays & Thursdays:  Students whose last names begin with the letters A-K will attend in-person 
      • Tuesdays & Fridays:  Students with last names beginning with the letters L-Z will attend in-person 
      • Wednesdays will be a remote learning day for all students
    • Special Education:
      • Students in grades 6-12+ who receive IEP services within a self-contained program (Specialized Services level 1, 2 or 3 at EJHS, PJHS, NCHS, WEST, SEP at CJHS, SSP at NCHS and all programs at Field) will attend school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day.  
      • All other K-12+ students who receive special education services will follow the above Elementary and Secondary schedules as outlined.  
    • EL 
      • Students in grades 6-12+ who receive Newcomer level ESL services (students who are in the Newcomer Program at CJHS or are enrolled in ESL 1 and 2 at NCHS) at Chiddix and NCHS will attend school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day.  
      • All other K-12+ students who receive English Learner services will follow the above Elementary and Secondary schedules as outlined.

    Classrooms

    • Classroom seating will be configured with maximum allowable space between students.  
    • Elementary and junior high schedules will be developed in a way that will limit student movement throughout the day. 
    • Employees will modify instructional plans to reduce student contact,  and maintain appropriate social distancing to the greatest extent possible. 
    • Class sizes will depend on student enrollment numbers, but will not excel the typical district averages per class. 
    • The borrowing or sharing any items will be restricted  
    • No classes will have more than 50 individuals in one space at one time, including PE, orchestra, band, etc

    Devices

    • Every Unit 5 student, in grades K-12+, will be issued a district device. K-2 and all students in the Specialized Services program will receive a tablet while students in grades 3-12+ will receive a chromebook.  Student access will be monitored for online safety.

    Hallways & Lockers

    Transitions to specials and  passing periods are typically a time when many students are in the hall at the same time.  In an effort to reduce the number of students in the hallway together Unit 5 is taking the following steps:

    •  Limits will be placed on the number of students allowed in a hallway at one time. 
    • Restroom procedures will be established at each school to limit the number of students transitioning in the hallway and in restrooms at one time.
    • K-5:  Specialist teachers (art, music, etc) will travel to each classroom to provide lessons so that students are not in the hallway as often
    • 6-8:  Students are grouped into teams and transitions will be staggered by each team.  This will minimize the number of students in the hall at any one time.
    • 9-12+:  Per our plan only half of the HS students will be present on any given day.  This will reduce the number of students in the halls at any one time.  
    • Signs and arrows will be placed throughout the buildings directing the flow of traffic
    • Lockers will be minimally used.  Students in grades 6-12+ will be allowed to carry backpacks to and from class as long as they are kept on the back of student desks.  Students who need to store equipment at school may be allowed to use their assigned locker.

    Return to Remote Instruction

    It is very likely that at some point this year families who choose “in-person learning” for their student(s) will have to transition to remote learning for a period of time as a result of state closure, local closure, local outbreak, or lack of available healthy staff to conduct in-person instruction. Students will continue to receive their instruction from their classroom teacher(s).  Remote instruction this year WILL look different than it did this past spring. In March schools and families were unexpectedly thrown into remote instruction. Everyone did the best they could in the spring but now that we have had time to plan and prepare this is what families can expect:  

    • Student Device and Access
    • All students who are in Remote Learning will be required to utilize district provided devices. 
      • Students will be monitored for safety  
    • Learning/Communication Platforms
      • In an effort to provide consistency and clarity, the following learning and communication management platforms will be used:
        • K-2 and Specialized Services levels 1-3- Seesaw, Art, Music, PE, Librarian, and other Specialists may use Infinite Campus and/or Google Classroom
        • Grades 3-12+ Google Classroom
      • Faculty and staff will also be available through their Unit 5 email address. 
      • Communication will also be sent through Infinite Campus
    • Delivery of Content
      • Students will be provided with structured schedules
      • Structured and scheduled engagement in academics
      • Scheduled remote meetings with classes with firm expectations
      • New curriculum will continue to be covered 
      • Streamed or recorded lessons from teachers to facilitate new learning
    • Grading/Academic Expectations:
      • Students will be required to be present and attendance will taken
      • Students will be expected to complete assignments and assessments by assigned due dates
      • Grading and feedback on assignments and assessments will be similar to in-person grading
    • Student Supports:
      • Times of availability for faculty and staff 
      • Social-emotional supports from school counselors, social workers, staff members, and administrators will be available to support students

    Health & Wellness

     

    • Individuals who are sick should stay home and not report to school

     

    • All students and staff will be required to either self-certify their health or be subject to a temperature and symptoms check before entering school buildings DAILY. Self-certification will occur through an app that is pushed out to students/parents and staff on a daily basis.
    • Students are required to wear a cloth face mask that covers their mouth and nose throughout the school day unless they are eating or outside
    • Students must avoid touching their face and mask as much as possible, will be reminded to do so
    • We will socially distance to the greatest extent possible 
    • Hallways and stairwells will have arrows indicating the direction traffic should flow
    • Students will be taught and reminded about proper and frequent hand washing
    • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the buildings
    • Locker rooms will only be used by students in swim class during the day
    • Emphasis on students’ mental health and social-emotional well being
    • Signage will be posted throughout the buildings to remind students of appropriate social distancing and hygiene
    • Students who refuse to wear a mask will be redirected to put one on.  Students who refuse will be sent home
    • Students who are sick and/or displaying symptoms will be quarantined until they can be picked up from school

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    Cleaning

    • An increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfecting
    • High touch areas (door knobs, light switches, etc) will be cleaned routinely during the day
    • Each classroom will have disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer,  and/or a safe disinfectant spray that may be used to clean tables/desks
    • The district has purchased additional clearing materials to help maintain a safe and clean learning environment

    Food Service & Water Fountains

    • All students will wash hands, and/or be reminded to wash hands, prior to entering the cafeteria. 
    • Masks will be required while picking up food in the cafeteria line. 
    • Food selections will be pre-wrapped and choices will be reduced. 
    • Students will eat in common areas such as the cafeteria, gyms, multipurpose rooms, etc. 
    • Students will be spread out as much as possible during lunch and may be assigned seats.  
    • All water fountains will be turned off and we will be using water bottle filling stations to provide students with access to water throughout the day. 

    Transportation

    Families will need to register for transportation for the 2020-21 school year through a Google Form.  The following practices will be in place:

    • Face masks must be worn
    • Routes will be created with a maximum number of 48 students on each bus.
    • Parents should complete the Self-Screener before their children board the bus and keep them home if they have any symptoms.
    • Parents that have the ability to transport their children to school are encouraged to do so.
    • A questionnaire will go out closer to the start of school to see who intends to ride buses this fall.  
    • Cleaning will occur in between routes

    We anticipate an increase in parents dropping students off at school. Some schools may need to assign staggered drop off times and/or change drop off locations to accommodate this increase. Your school will provide more details. 

    Recess

    Building principals will work with teachers to schedule recess at times to reduce the number of students outside at one time.

    Extra-Curricular Activities & Clubs

    • All decisions for IHSA participation will be governed by the guidance they have provided 
    • All non-IHSA extra-curricular activities will be governed by the guidance provided by ISBE and (as appropriate) by the guidance provided above
    • Clubs may meet while following ISBE & IDPH guidelines.  While in Phase 4 no more than 50 individuals may gather in one space.  

    ONLINE LEARNING

    Families who decide that their child will participate in the online option must commit to online instruction for the entire first semester.  In order to have proper staffing in place, we will not allow students to start online and then move to in-person learning. Students participating in online learning will be assigned to a Unit 5 teacher who is licensed to teach the grade range that the student is in (K-5, 6-8, 9-12+).  The teachers assigned may not be a teacher from the student’s home school or grade level.

    Pre-K Online Learning

    • Students medically unable to attend in person will be provided an online learning option

    K-5 Online Learning

    • Students participating in online learning will receive daily and weekly course expectations
    • Class announcements and learning objectives through a digital format 
    •  A variety of activities related to Reading, Writing, Word Study, Math and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) will be provided to students   
    • New learning and instruction will occur
    • Attendance will be taken daily
    • Feedback and grading on learning targets will occur

    6-12+ Online Learning

    • Students in grades 6-12+ will access courses through Edmentum, an online learning platform. This curriculum is self paced which means that the student will be responsible for working through the content. 
    • Not all courses offered through Edmentum will be offered at the middle schools and high schools.  Administration will try to align students’ current first semester course schedule with available Edmentum courses. Click here for a list of courses offered by Edmentum.  Click here for a list of current Edmentum courses offered at the high schools.  Click here for a list of Edmentum courses planning to be offered at the middle schools.
    • The teacher will monitor how students are performing within the Edmentum course and can provide support to students with questions 
    • The teacher will communicate, with families, their student's pace and progress so there is not a question about if they are behind, ahead or right on target with their goals 
    • The teacher will be responsible for checking in on students' social emotional well being throughout the week by holding virtual meetings and providing SEL lessons
    • New learning and instruction will occur
    • Attendance will be taken daily
    • Grading will occur

    Special Education Online Learning

    Students in grades 6-12+ who receive IEP services within the self-contained Specialized Services level 2/3 program at PJHS, NCHS, WEST, and Field will have individualized lessons created by staff.

    All other K-12+ students who receive special education services will receive services via the online learning platform explained above.  

    Please note that no online learning platform can replicate an in-person classroom experience. Students who start the semester using the online learning platform will continue with this platform even if students participating in “in-person” learning go remote.

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