Dear District 58 Staff and Families:
It is hard to believe Thanksgiving is this Thursday and winter break is quickly approaching. Once again, I would like to thank the entire District 58 community for everyone’s patience, grace and flexibility during the pandemic. These are certainly stressful times and no matter what takes place inside or outside of schools there will be strong opinions and feelings on all sides. I am grateful that no matter the differences individuals may have regarding decisions made due to the pandemic, the students remain the highest priority for everyone.
On Nov. 9, I wrote a letter to the community that stated, “Beginning Monday, Nov. 16, District 58 must make a temporary shift to remote instruction for most students. This shift is taking place because of the high number of absences for students and staff due to the pandemic.” This pause was needed to allow impacted students and staff time to quarantine.
During the adaptive pause, the impacted individuals completed the required quarantine periods, the District secured more substitute teachers, and the District’s internal numbers improved. Therefore, District 58 will resume onsite instruction after Thanksgiving break. The District will continue offering our onsite hybrid instructional model with a full remote option, along with several other DuPage school districts. Below is the schedule that will be followed:
The District recognizes that several communications have been sent out regarding learning models and that many of these messages may be redundant. In an effort to shorten this letter, further information on this decision, frequently asked questions, and options for families can be found by clicking here. If you are enrolled in hybrid learning and no longer intend to send your child onsite for instruction, notify your principal immediately so we can plan appropriately.
District 58 values feedback from our families and staff. The District is seeking feedback on our instructional models to date and encourages all families to complete this survey by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30. We ask that you complete the survey one time for each student in your household. The data will be shared with the community at the Monday, Dec. 14 Board of Education meeting. At that time, an update will be provided on the process the District is undertaking to evaluate, review and strengthen our learning models. The survey for staff will be sent directly to all staff in a separate communication.
District 58 is committed to providing onsite instruction in a safe manner that adheres to the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). In order to provide such a model, everyone must do their part by taking this virus extremely seriously. We cannot provide onsite instruction if our absences return to unmanageable levels. This is truly a community effort and we need your help. Please avoid gatherings, stay home as much as possible, and be safe.
Continue to practice the 3Ws: Wear a mask, Watch your distance & Wash your hands frequently.
Dr. Kevin B. Russell
Superintendent of Schools
1. Why is the District offering onsite instruction?
District 58 continues to follow the guidance outlined by the Illinois State Board of Education. The guidance states that school districts should prioritize onsite instruction for students under the age of 13 (this is almost all of the students in District 58). The District will also continue to offer a fully remote option to any family that is not comfortable sending their child(ren) to school.
2. Why does the administration feel strongly about having kids attend in-person?
- We believe that it is the best learning environment for children
- The ISBE guidance clearly states that we should emphasize in-person instruction for students under the age of 13
- The schools of District 58 have done a very good job implementing safety measures that are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19
- Unlike very large schools, we are able to cohort students effectively, thus reducing the risk of spread
- There are three weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break and a great deal of learning takes place during this time period (especially since Winter Break is two weeks long)
3. What is District 58 experiencing in terms of COVID-19 in our schools?
Although COVID-19 cases have been reported in District 58, through contact tracing we have determined the virus is currently being transmitted outside of our schools (playdates, sporting activities, in-home gatherings) where the proper safety measures may not be in place. At this time, we have no documented cases originating in the District. Please note, the District is not stating that this will never take place. There is no risk-free environment during the pandemic. However, we believe that the health and safety precautions we have instituted in our classrooms are helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in District 58 schools. Staff and families can get up-to-date information on COVID-19 in District 58 (Dashboard and communications) by visiting our website.
4. What are those logistical challenges District 58 faces due to COVID-19?
- Securing and training subs
- Shifting students to remote classrooms due to quarantine or parental request
- Unreliable data during Thanksgiving week (since both students and staff will be out from Wed-Sun, it will be challenging to collect accurate data to be prepared for a full return on Nov. 30)
5. Do Tier III Mitigations apply to schools?
No, Governor Pritzker has made it clear that the mitigations requirements put in place by the State of Illinois are so schools can stay open.
6. Who decides if schools can be open or closed?
Unlike the spring, Governor Pritzker has opted not to use his authority to close schools. The decision to open and close schools has been left to local school districts. This is why so many different decisions are being made as districts are examining their local data combined with guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education, the IDPH and the DCHD. In addition, each school district is unique and measures that are applicable to an elementary district are likely not the same for a high school district.
Please note, Governor Pritzker could close schools at any moment and the District is prepared if that takes place (this is why we had everyone work from home over Thanksgiving week).
7. Are we following the guidance from the DCHD?
The DCHD has created a Return to School Framework that encourages various instructional models for the different transmission levels that are based on county-wide metrics. In addition to the the metrics, the DCHD has also shared:
DCHD supports the decision-making authority and discretion of Superintendents in DuPage County to determine the appropriate learning plans, whether remote or onsite, and implementation for their school district. DCHD has worked collaboratively with Superintendents to equip them with the public health guidance and data necessary to aid and inform their decision-making process during any transmission level. DCHD is not able to and does not have the authority to endorse the safety of any specific decision made by Superintendents, within or outside of the recommendations provided in our framework. As stated in our framework, we encourage DuPage Superintendents to consider individual school-level factors such as case and outbreak activity, specific disease trends and distribution, absenteeism among students and staff within a school, ability of the school to implement key mitigation strategies, and alternate remote learning site options and safety protocols when making the decision for their school community. (Source: DCHD)
8. Is there a concern about Thanksgiving and the potential for increased COVID-19 spread?
As shared above, there is always a concern about the spread of COVID-19 when staff and students are out of school because the same safety protocols may not be in place or followed. Holidays like Thanksgiving are concerning because individuals may let their guard down. This is why the District always encourages individuals to follow the recommendations from the CDC, IDPH, and the DCHD. In the letter, the District made it clear that we cannot keep schools open if there are too many staff and student absences. This is why it is so important to make smart decisions.
While no one can predict the number of cases that could result from students attending outside events, the window of time between Thanksgiving and Winter Break is three weeks. The District scheduled a two day delayed return to onsite instruction for most students so the proper adjustments can be made. Two to three weeks of onsite instruction is manageable (unless there are unforeseen circumstances).
9. Why are classes for most students resuming on 12/2 and not 11/30?
During a typical week this school year, we are able to closely monitor health information via the self-certification process for staff and students. Over Thanksgiving week, we will not be able to track the information because staff and students are off Wednesday through Sunday. The District needs time to adjust in the event individuals are placed in quarantine. This cannot be accomplished the morning of Monday, Nov. 30. The District’s special education programs, including the Grove Children’s Preschool, will resume onsite instruction on 11/30 however.
10. What instructional models are other districts offering?
Since the decision to offer onsite or remote learning instructional models is a local decision, each school district has its own unique plan and decision making process. Districts are all in different places regarding staff and student absences and therefore will likely make different decisions (i.e. District 58 had to take an adaptive pause on Nov. 16 while other districts did not). The Illinois State Board of Education has developed a dashboard to show the current models in place. Please note, this dashboard does take time to update so some of the information may not be up-to-date.
11. Can a family change to onsite or remote?
In October, the District asked families to make a selection through winter break in order to provide a consistent learning environment for all students. While we will always work to support families through various circumstances, we are unable to accommodate a high volume of changes. If you are enrolled in hybrid learning and no longer intend to send your child onsite for instruction, notify your principal immediately so we can plan appropriately.
12. What is the plan for substitute teachers?
The District has offered informational sessions for substitute teachers and has gathered feedback from them in an effort to increase the substitute teacher pool and acceptance of substitute teaching jobs. We are in the process of securing 1-2 substitutes who will be “on call” at each school between November 30 - December 18. The substitute teachers will report to the school each day to fill any positions that are unfilled due to an unexpected situation. If all necessary positions are filled for that day, the substitute will partner with a classroom teacher to provide onsite or remote instruction. Based on feedback from a number of substitutes, providing this “on the job training” will allow for a level of training that will increase their confidence and comfort level as they accept subbing jobs. The additional substitute training may also lead to increased acceptance of substitute jobs because the subs would be more familiar with the various learning models. We appreciate the continued partnership by all staff as substitutes report to our schools each day; your assistance with substitute teachers has been beneficial for ensuring the quality of instruction of students.
13. What safety measures are in place?
The district continues to implement its Return to Learn Protocols as we have since school resumed onsite learning back at the start of September. While no environment can ever be completely risk free, we remain extremely proud of our students, staff and families for working together to implement these protocols as they were intended. We will continue to partner together moving forward in the same way due to the success we experienced but remain open to adjustment if needed to continually improve.
14. What is the purpose of the survey?
The goal of the survey is to receive feedback on our learning instructional model. The data gathered in this survey will be analyzed by administrators, staff and the Board of Education. The District will use this data to strengthen our instructional models at all levels.
It is important to recognize that instruction during a pandemic will be different and nothing will look the same as it did a year ago. The survey will ask you to reflect upon your experiences during this school year, both in the first six weeks (when most were fully remote) and the most recent six weeks (when most have been in a hybrid learning model with a fully remote option, and then shifted into a temporary full remote situation for the majority of students).
15. Why is Dec. 11 a remote learning day?
On Friday, Dec. 11, our teachers will be conducting parent-teacher conferences, which prevents the District from running our typical hybrid learning schedule. In order to continue learning, this day will be a full remote learning day for all students. Additional details regarding specific learning activities and schedules for that day will be shared in the coming weeks.
16. If my child has to quarantine due to symptoms, can they move to a remote class?
When an extended absence is required due to mandated quarantine, we work to maintain engagement over the course of the extended absence, recognizing that continued exposure to live instruction is valuable. In most cases, the movement into a temporary remote class will necessitate a short-term teacher change. Because of this, if a student is awaiting confirmation of an extended absence (test results for themselves or a family member, etc), we would initially treat the absence as any other - the current teacher would identify assignments and activities to be completed during the absence and check in with the student. Upon confirmation of the need for an extended mandatory quarantine (10-14 days), the student would be offered placement in a temporary remote classroom. The beginning of that placement may take a few days in order to coordinate communication between all necessary staff members; we will make every effort to begin the remote placement as soon as possible.
17. When will my child(ren) return to onsite learning?