Two more local school districts have announced they will begin the school year by having students attend classes remotely. Komarek Elementary School District 94 announced its intentions on July 31, while Lyons Township High School District 204 notified families with a letter to parents on Aug. 4.
Just a couple weeks ago LTHS officials were finalizing plans for a hybrid model in which students would attend school for half days, four days a week. But over the last two weeks, school officials decided to change plans and switch to 100-percent remote learning.
“The rising number of COVID-19 cases, both locally and nationally, combined with serious concerns from families and staff about returning to in-person learning, create a significant and prolonged risk of disrupted in-person learning,” LTHS District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea wrote in his letter to families. “A remote learning model is the most viable, flexible and equitable plan at this time.”
The decision was influenced by the desires of the teachers union, the LTEA. At a special school board meeting on July 27, Kilrea said that the LTEA recommended remote learning.
The remote learning plan this year will be very different than the rushed solution last spring after schools were abruptly shut down on March 13.
“We heard from parents loud and clear that last spring was not the best,” Kilrea said at the July 27 school board meeting.
This year students will attend classes remotely with their teachers at specified times four days a week. Wednesday afternoons will be reserved for virtual office hours so students and teachers can connect individually if they need to.
Four class periods will meet each day, meaning that students will have two periods of every class each week. Unlike last spring, students will be held accountable in terms of grading.
“Unlike the spring shutdown, when state mandates limited our ability to deliver high-quality remote instruction, the 2020-2021 remote learning model will include a return to required attendance, grading of student work, clear expectations based on defined course objectives and four days of synchronous learning per week,” Kilrea said.
All students will have to complete a daily attendance document.
LTHS teachers will deliver their lessons online to their students in real time in what is called synchronous learning. Classes will meet for up to an hour at specified times. Classes in periods one through four will meet Mondays and Thursdays, while periods five through eight will meet Tuesdays and Fridays.
Kilrea admitted that remote learning is less than ideal, but he said that under the guidelines made necessary by the pandemic in person school attendance would also be far from normal.
“Our goal will be to return to in-person learning as soon as possible,” Kilrea wrote. “However, given the significant health and safety guidelines we must follow, there would be nothing normal about the daily in-person experience for students.”
LTHS is taking steps to ensure that all students can attend their classes remotely. The school district purchased 500 Chromebooks over the summer to give to students who need them and expects to purchase 300 to 500 more Chromebooks before the school year starts on Aug. 20. Teachers will report to work on Aug. 13.
Last spring approximately 80 LTHS students did not have internet access at home, but LTHS is going to arrange for homes without internet access to access the Xfinity Access Program for free Wi-Fi or will give free hot spot devices to families that need them.
The school district will provide grab-and-go lunches for students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program and will provide virtual supports and student services for students that need them.
For now, the remote learning model will apply for the first quarter of the school year but Kilrea said that the school is ready to quickly shift to a hybrid model with some in-person school attendance if conditions allow.
Komarek going remote for 1st quarter
Students at Komarek School in North Riverside will be attending school remotely for at least the first quarter of the upcoming school year.
Komarek District 94 Superintendent Todd Fitzgerald delivered the news to parents in a letter on July 31. The recent increase in COVID-19 cases and a lack of air conditioning at Komarek were major factors in the decision, Fitzgerald said.
“Our facilities and the lack of air conditioning present concerns for students and staff that would be expected to wear masks during school hours on extremely warm days in August and September,” Fitzgerald wrote. “These factors, combined with our desire to provide the best and safest learning environment possible for our students and staff have led the district to commit to a full remote learning model to start the school year in August.”
The first day of school at Komarek will be Aug. 19. The first quarter runs until Oct. 26. Late in the first quarter, Komarek officials will review the situation and decide how to move forward.
Komarek had been planning for a hybrid start to the school year, mixing in-person and remote learning before deciding to start with 100-percent remote learning.
“I recognize that this shift may provide relief to some, but I also know that this is unwelcome news for others,” Fitzgerald wrote. “We share our families’ desire to return to in-person learning as soon as possible, but also believe we must continue to make decisions that prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and the Komarek community as a whole.”