GURNEE – Students in Woodland School District 50 will begin the school year Aug. 31 under a plan dubbed Woodland Remote Learning 2.0, according to a letter sent to parents July 24.
Superintendent Lori Casey wrote that educators had been working on a plan for the 2020-21 school year since May.
Casey said initially she had intended to present a blended learning model to the Board of Education to start the school year. However, as planning progressed, it became apparent that more time was being used to plan for people getting sick than on providing a high-quality educational experience, she said.
“When the majority of our discussions were centered around how to respond when we have cases, when various groups will be required to quarantine and when we will transition to full remote for all, it was a wake-up call that we were trying to reopen knowing full well we would have cases of COVID-19 among our staff and students,” she wrote. “It was time to change course, even when that seemed like the hard thing to do.”
Casey said remote learning when school begins will be different from what took place in the spring. Feedback from teachers and families, as well as work done by three committees and administrators, yielded a revised plan going forward.
Woodland Remote Learning 2.0 will include:
• The current plan is to stay in remote learning through the first quarter and continue to evaluate the situation over the coming weeks and months. The plan will be to eventually move into a blended learning model, and to one day fully reopen when it is safe to do so.
• The plan will have clear expectations, more live instruction and meaningful interaction among teachers and students.
• The first day of remote instruction will be Aug. 31. The week before will be used for remote learning planning days, supply and material pickup and virtual teacher meet and greets.
• The school day for students in first through eighth grade will be 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Early childhood and kindergarten will be a half-day with a.m. and p.m. sessions.
• Students will be expected to attend classes and complete all assignments. Normal grading and attendance practices will resume as if it were a traditional classroom.
• Special education services, dual language, advanced and challenge classes, specials and more will be provided. More details will be provided as the plan is finalized.
• Grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meal options will be provided for pickup.
“We understand that schools provide students with important social interactions and experiences during a normal school day,” Casey wrote, “However, given the extensive health and safety guidelines we must follow, there will be nothing normal about the daily experience if we try to bring them back at this time. In fact, we will be required to do everything we can to limit social interactions with other students and adults, which will take away any sense of normalcy.”
Casey acknowledged the decision for remote learning will present a challenge for some families and they will need to find child care for younger students. The district is working with local child care providers, such as Champions and the Gurnee Park District, to determine what type of programming they can offer in the fall to assist.
Casey said the district will be coming out with additional details about the plan as they become available. Parents are invited to submit questions, comments or statements using an online feedback form on the district’s website, www.dist50.net.