District 202 special education, kindergarteners will return first

Tom Hernandez, Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 Director of Community Relations

Plainfield – District 202 prekindergarten-12th grade multi-needs special education students are scheduled to return to classrooms on October 26, 2020 as part of the district’s plan to slowly resume in-person learning over the next four months.

Preschool and kindergarten students would return to school the week of November 2, 2020. Older students would return in small grade-related groups between November 16, 2020 to January 19, 2021.

Families will receive additional details about returning to in-person learning as their students’ return approaches.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lane Abrell updated the District 202 Board of Education on the status of the district’s “Return ‘20” plan at the Board’s September 28, 2020 regular meeting.

The Board approved the “Return ‘20” plan on July 27, 2020. It includes three educational phases focused on the overarching principal of safety and flexibility.

The first phase started August 31, 2020 with remote learning for all District 202 students. It called for returning those students first who most need direct instruction and support.

Meanwhile, district administration promised to monitor numerous criteria over the first four to six weeks of school to decide when to start the second phase – a controlled, moderated return to in-person learning.

Criteria include health metrics and safety guidelines, the availability of safety and cleaning supplies, regular and substitute staffing, and community feedback.

“All of us understand the importance of having students in school for face-to-face instruction,” Abrell said.

“We have been studying this issue and working on return plans even before we started remote learning in August. However, we must do this in a thoughtful, deliberate, and safe manner,” he said.

Timelines for returning students to in-person learning will depend on the success of each previous group, Abrell said. Staff will continue to monitor conditions as students and staff return to buildings to ensure compliance with all appropriate Covid-19 guidelines. School could close again if conditions worsen. The length of and response to such closures will depend on  specific circumstances.

A phased-in return will also let staff see how well the district can maintain inventory of personal protective equipment, ensure the availability of regular and substitute staff, and confirm student, staff and facility readiness.

“We must strictly adhere to the health and safety guidelines” from all local, state and federal health agencies, Abrell said. Failing to do so would put students, staff, and even the community at risk.

Those guidelines will include all students (except for those exempted for medical reasons) and staff wearing masks whenever they are in the classroom or schools.

“Masks are an essential tool to help ensure the health and safety of everyone in our schools. They are not a political statement or a First Amendment issue” Abrell stressed.

“While some would like to think so, schools don’t just exist in a vacuum,” Abrell said. “We have said many times. This is not just a personal issue, or even a school issue. This is a community health issue.”

Many students, staff and parents will be excited to see students return to in-person learning, however Abrell cautioned that no one should expect school to look like what it did before March 16, 2020 when schools closed.

“This fall we will be returning to a much more static, sterile environment,” he said.

Likewise, many will also still be concerned about bringing nearly 26,000 students and 3,200 employees back to schools.

For that reason, parents will be able to choose remote learning or an in-person hybrid model for their students for the rest of first semester only.

Families who choose in-person hybrid learning may move to full remote learning during first semester. However, families who choose remote learning cannot switch to in-person learning until second semester to allow for appropriate staffing.

 

KEY POINTS RE: DISTRICT 202’S RETURN TO IN-PERSON LEARNING:

*all dates are tentative based on current health conditions

  • District staff will return to schools on October 15, 2020
  • Prekindergarten through 12th grade multi-needs special needs students will return to in-person learning on October 26, 2020
  • Preschool and kindergarten students will return the week of November 2, 2020
  • Older students would return in small grade-related groups between November 16, 2020 to January 19, 2021.
  • The timing for each new group to return will depend on the successful return of the prior group.
  • Families will receive additional details about returning to in-person learning as their students’ return approaches.
  • Parents will be surveyed in advance of their students’ targeted return date about their intent for their child to return, to allow for appropriate staffing.
  • Students will be divided into “A” and “B” groupings for attendance, to limit the number of students in school at one time
  • Busing will be provided
  • Sit-down, traditional lunch will not be provided; grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches will be provided
  • All students and staff must wear masks inside buildings except those with appropriate medical exemptions
  • School could close again if conditions worsen. The length of and response to such closures will depend on  specific circumstances.