Dear District 58 Families,
On behalf of all of us in District 58, thank you for your partnership during this unprecedented school year. I recognize and understand that there are strong feelings on all sides of the issue when it comes to reopening schools. While we have seen tremendous successes and a high quality of student engagement during the first days of remote learning, I also recognize and understand how challenging remote learning can be for students, families, and staff. All of us want this pandemic to end so we can return to operating schools in our regular manner. Your partnership and flexibility are very much appreciated.
This letter outlines our plans and seeks your feedback on options that best meet the needs of your family.
Throughout the summer and fall, the District has worked closely with neighboring districts, the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD), the DuPage County Regional Office of Education (ROE), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to gain clarity on how and when schools can reopen for in-person instruction. In order to return to onsite instruction, the District established assessment criteria detailed in the chart below.
-# of new cases per 100,000
-Diagnostic testing availability and turnaround
|Does the DCHD say it is safe to open based on their indicators? District 58 cannot and will not make this determination on its own as this must be made by health experts.|
|Staffing||Can we staff under these updated guidelines? Are individuals consistently able to report to work based upon the isolation and/or quarantine requirements?|
|Clear Guidance & Metrics from IDPH that can be Interpreted by the DCHD||Has the IDPH provided clear guidance to the DCHD? Can the DCHD recommend a course of action to our District?|
|Implementation of Guidance||Can it be done? Does it disrupt the educational process? Is it too costly?|
Both the ISBE and the IDPH have updated their guidance documents so that school districts now have a better understanding of how and when students can return. While there are still many obstacles to returning to onsite instruction, this provides much more clarity and makes a return to onsite instruction a possibility. Additionally, the DCHD has established a Return to School Framework that recommends schools deploy learning models (remote, hybrid, in-person, etc…) based on the level of community transmission of COVID-19. Currently, DuPage County is in the Moderate Transmission Level. In this model, the DCHD states schools can reopen in a hybrid learning scenario. Please note, this is just one piece of the complex decision to reopen schools. Staffing, how well all guidance can be implemented, facility space, and other factors must be carefully considered as well.
The administration continues to assess how we can bring back students to onsite learning. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing this at the last Board meeting on September 14, 2020. If you are interested in learning more about the new guidelines from the IDPH and the DCHD as well as the process the District will follow to return to onsite instruction, please review the information in BoardDocs and watch the presentation I gave on Monday via the District 58 YouTube Channel.
In addition, the administration has held a number of planning meetings with building principals, teachers, support staff, and other key leaders. The team intends to present a plan on how and when schools can reopen in District 58 at the next Board meeting September 28, 2020. The plan will reflect all of the updated guidance and include a recommended timeline for transitioning to onsite instruction. Please note, the decision to reopen schools will be made by the Board of Education after it carefully reviews the work of our planning groups, all the updated guidance from ISBE and the IDPH and the DCHD’s Return to School Framework. It is likely that the recommended plan will look different than what was previously presented because the guidance from ISBE, the IDPH, and the DCHD has changed. A remote learning option will also be included in any proposal as required by the ISBE.
No matter what is presented on September 28, 2020, I recognize that there will be strong feelings, opinions, and feedback. I understand that this pandemic has caused a great deal of stress on all of us and has impacted everyone differently. Please know that we value everyone’s voice and that we are listening. We hope to present a plan that allows for the return of onsite instruction, provides a robust remote option, and minimizes educational disruption. The planning teams are also developing a timeline for transitioning to other models as much time is needed to adjust from one scenario to the other. There is not a perfect plan that will be able to meet the needs of everyone. However, we have a great deal of feedback from all stakeholders that will greatly assist us as we finalize our plan.
In order to assist with the planning process, the District needs information from families. Please complete the survey below by 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 22, 2020. This survey is not a final commitment. However, the District needs baseline enrollment data so we can plan accordingly. The District also recognizes that families cannot fully commit to a learning model until they have precise details of the final plan. Therefore, the District will send a commitment form out to families after the next Board meeting if the Board approves a return to onsite instruction.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I respectfully ask our families to allow us the much needed time to develop a plan so we can present it to the Board on September 28, 2020. You are encouraged to provide feedback on the reopening of schools in the survey linked to an email sent to all parents on Sept. 18. Thank you for your continued partnership – we are in this together.
Dr. Kevin Russell
Superintendent of Schools