The school year will begin nine days earlier than normal this year in Lyons-Brookfield School District 103, as a divided school board voted 4 to 3 at a June 30 special meeting to start school on Aug. 17.
The earlier start day was recommended by District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera, who said the start date would coincide with the first day of school for Lyons Township High School and Morton High School, the two public high schools that serve District 103 residents.
Before the vote, District 103 teachers union president Toni Jackman made a public statement criticizing the proposed new start date.
Jackman said the district needed more time to develop a plan to safely open schools in the midst of the continuing pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
“Even if we complete the plan in time, the materials and staff needed to appropriately implement the plan will likely be hard to come by and may not even be here in time,” Jackman said. “A less than perfectly planned and executed return isn’t just about added pressure, it could mean a loss of life.”
Jackman wanted the first day of school to be Aug. 24.
Board members Sharon Anderson, Marge Hubacek and Shannon Johnson voted against adopting the calendar with the new start date.
“Keep it at its normal start time and give us those additional 10 days to figure out what the year is going to look like,” Anderson said.
Voting to approve the new calendar was the board majority of Vito Campanile, Olivia Quintero, Winifred Rodriguez and board President Jorge Torres.
On July 13, Rivera told the Landmark that administrators have been meeting with the teachers union about developing a plan for what school will look like when it opens in August. He said that he hopes to finalize a plan after a meeting with the union on July 14. The plan will likely be presented to the school at its July 28 meeting.
“We’ve been working our tails off,” Rivera said at the June 30 meeting.
District 103 recently surveyed parents about what they want school to look like and about 33 percent of them said that they wanted to continue remote learning instead of sending their children back to school.
“That was a little surprise, so we may have to run two plans, a remote and a blended or possibly in person,” Rivera said. “A third [of families] is nothing to sneeze at.”
Rivera said that he will try to accommodate those parents who don’t think it is safe to send their kids to school.
The district is planning on having Chromebooks available for every student and teacher. It is working on making sure that all families have internet access.
Students attending school in person will probably have to eat their lunches in their classrooms.
“I can’t see any way around of having cold lunches every single day, and that becomes old really quick,” Rivera said, adding that parents might want to consider having students bring their own lunches to school.
Although bus service will continue to be provided, Rivera said he would encourage parents that can drive their children to school to do so.
“I think it is much safer for parents to drive their kids,” Rivera said.
The district has ordered 3,000 face masks and will provide one to every student and teacher. Students and teachers will be required to wear face masks while they are in school except when they are eating and perhaps during recess. The district plans to charge students $3 for a replacement mask if they lose the mask the district provides for them.