Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the entire world, local leaders in education are talking about schools reopening in our community. During the conversation, the guests share the plan for going back to in-person learning, the anticipation in doing so, measures to keep students and staff safe, and what protocols are in place should someone within a school test positive for COVID-19.
- Dan Bridges, Superintendent – Naperville Community Unit School District 203
- Dr. Adrian Talley, Superintendent – Indian Prairie School District 204
- Mavis DeMar, Principal – St. Raphael Catholic School
Schools Reopening – A Process and a Positive Outlook
The three guests and hosts discuss the reopening as a process, with different grade levels returning to in-person learning at different times. In District 204 for example, Talley says grades pre-kindergarten through second phased into at-school learning in October. Then the district expanded grades three through five, followed shortly this year with middle and high school students. “What we’ve been very fortunate about is that the children and the students are all very energized and excited about what happening,” said Talley.
“Very similarly, we are very excited in District 203 in transitioning to our hybrid model,” says Bridges. He goes onto explain that there have been groups of students at most of the schools from the beginning of the school year, “minus some short adaptive pauses” in late fall. “There is a new level of excitement now,” he says describing the eagerness of students. “A tremendous amount of credit goes to our educators for the work that they’ve done to prepare for this. We’ve asked them to do things they’ve never had to do before.”
Saint Raphael in contrasts has been open in person since August 19, essentially the start of the school year. Demar attributes that to the thorough training of all teachers in safety measures, placing of six foot markers, and the students wearing masks. “They don’t even notice they have them on. They’re going through their day learning and being challenged. It’s really been amazing.”
Remote or In-Person Learning? Deciding Factors
With both private and public schools represented, the panel was able to compare and contrast the two and discuss why some schools and school districts were able to move to in-person learning sooner than others. They all agree that when it comes to comparison, it’s “apples to oranges.” “I’m a very small school,” says Demar. “I have one class of every grade level. If I had five of every grade level, I’d be in the same way that district 203 and 204 are.”
Factors that determine schools reopening in a district include:
- Size of the District
- Class size
- Available facilities
- Classroom structure and arrangement
“It’s really hard to answer the question, ‘Why is this district or this private school open and you’re not’ because our conditions and what’s available to us are just so different,” says Bridges. “Every superintendent and every private school leader has to make decisions based on what’s best for their circumstance.”
Schools In the News
Fore more stories about our local schools, visit our Naperville News 17 education news page.
About the Show
Finding Common Ground focuses on important current events and how they impact our diverse population. We are many voices of one community, often with strong opinions on every side of an issue. Here, through courageous conversation in the interest of discovering collaborative solutions, we hope to find out common ground.
All guests and viewers are invited to acknowledge the four agreements to courageous conversations:
- Stay Engaged
- Speak Your Truth
- Experience Discomfort
- Expect and Accept Non-Closure