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More Details of D203 Plan To Return To Five Days In School

At tonight’s Naperville School District 203 board of education meeting, administration shared more details about the district’s plans to return to in-person learning, five days a week on April 7.

What Does the School Day Look Like?

  • Early childhood students will attend school five days a week on an AM/PM schedule from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. or 12:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Preschool for All students will attend school five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Elementary students will attend school Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students will have lunch spread out between the lunchroom, classrooms, and other areas in school buildings. They will not remove masks until they’re seated and ready to eat. Masks need to be worn during recess as well.
  • Middle school students will attend school Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., following a traditional nine-period day with lunch and recess.

School Day for High School

High school students will attend school Monday through Friday from 7:35 a.m. to 1:30 p.m on a four-period block schedule. Staff collaboration and PLC time will be made available to students from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Though students are returning five days a week, some parents don’t agree with the block schedule.

“While I am really looking forward to K-8 being open full-time and the remote option being available to those who need it, the high school plan with the block schedule still does not meet out children’s educational needs,” said Hidijo Elyea who is a District 203 parent. “High schoolers have already lost days of instructional time and the block schedule continued to cut this time. How are you guys planning on making up all this time all of our kids have lost between high school, junior high, and elementary, and even preschool?”

There will also be no lunch for students during the school day. The district said there is still a barrier to offer lunch for high school students because they need to space them six feet apart since masks wouldn’t be worn.

“One of the biggest barriers for us is that even though we do have some very large spaces at both high schools, that does then displace our wellness program which is also a very important curriculum to the high school students,” said Stephanie Posey, interim assistant superintendent of secondary education. “We felt like instead of displacing some of our wellness programs and tearing up some of that curriculum which kids are enjoying and get some relief from sitting in class that we would just continue the block schedule the way it is, finish, and make some of those plans for the fall, the 2021-2022 school year.”

Grab and go lunches will be available for students after the 1:30 p.m. dismissal. Superintendent Dan Bridges said they don’t anticipate returning to an eight-period school day for high school students this school year. They do plan to bring high school students back to a traditional school day schedule with lunch in the 2021-2022 school year.

Remote learning will continue to be an option for students at all grade levels in the current 2020-2021 school year. Masks will be required on buses for all grade levels and there is a capacity of 50 students. The district said more parents have chosen to drop off and pick up their students instead of using the bus, so they expect longer lines and ask families to be patient during these times. Surveillance testing will also increase to two times a week at all grade levels.

Specialized Classrooms

  • Elementary students attend school five days a week from 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Junior High students attend school five days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
  • High School students attend school five days a week from 7:35 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Connections students attend school five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Online learners continue to livestream five days a week following the in-person schedule at all grade levels.

At the Meeting

14 speakers shared their thoughts versus the 24 who came out at the March 2 meeting. Most of them had some complaints about the district’s plans for the remainder of the school year except for one parent.

“Coming up here, I just wanted to represent the parents that don’t normally come to these meetings. I wanted to represent the parents that are happy with the job you’re doing. People that find remote learning is a positive experience or at the very least a neutral experience and it’s working,” said District 203 parent Tim Thompson. “Given the information you all had at the time, I think a very strong number of parents out there would agree with me saying that you made the best decisions for our students, for our staff, for our educators, for our office workers, for everyone involved.”

Why Make the Shift to In-Person Learning Now?

On March 9, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released new guidance which included redefining social distancing as three to six feet instead of just six feet at schools.

“Six feet of social distance continues to be the safest and we will work to provide this distance to the greatest extent possible throughout the school day. When it cannot be maintained, we will analyze the space to determine how we can safely reduce the physical distance between students and vaccinated staff,” said Christine Igoe, assistant superintendent for student services. “When it has been determined to be necessary, we will cautiously reduce this distance, working our way backwards from six feet to three feet. We will never plan for less than three feet of physical distance between students and vaccinated staff.”

The district has also made progress in vaccinating District 203 staff. According to the district, around 80% of staff has been fully or partially vaccinated, 65% of which have been fully vaccinated and 15% partially. The district said it’s also been shown that in-person learning is not associated with higher levels of transmission when compared to schools without in-person learning, according to ISBE, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the CDC.

Plans for 2021-2022 School Year

The district is planning to make a full return to in-person learning in the next school year with all grade levels following the traditional schedules. Remote learning will only be available to students who are at an increased risk of severe illness or live with people at increased risk per medical documentation.

“It is our hope that ISBE, CDC, IDPH communicate their expectations early so districts like Naperville have the proper time to respond and shift if any further restrictions are placed on the districts or taken away,” said Bridges.

District administration plans to report any lost learning since shifting to remote learning and what strategies can be implemented to solve this to the board of education at a meeting in April.

The full board of education meeting can be found here.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.

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