Yesterday's revised public health guidelines for schools may result in new changes
Dear District 58 Families,
This week’s warm weather has been such a breath of fresh air and a pleasant reminder that spring is just around the corner! Spring is a time for renewal and hope. While we have endured this pandemic for a year, I am hopeful that the worst has passed and a return to normalcy is nearing.
Here in District 58, our staff is striving to safely increase the school day for both onsite and full remote students in grades 1-8 starting April 7. Our original plan called for us to increase the elementary school day from 2.5 hours to 4.25 hours on April 7 and then to again increase the school day to a full day (6 hours, 10 minutes) on May 3. With the School Board’s guidance, we are aiming to cut that first step and to instead increase the elementary school day to a full day beginning April 7. We are also staggering elementary and middle school start and end times to help families with children who attend multiple schools.
We plan to finalize our post-spring break instructional schedule and inform families by Friday, March 19. Please see the tentative schedules below:
Tentative Schedule Beginning April 7:
Preschool Schedule: No change from before
- Blended Sessions: 8:15-9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m., 1:15-2:45 p.m.
- Special Programs: 8:15-10:30 a.m., 12:30-2:45 p.m.
Tentative Full Day Elementary Schedule: Our goal is to provide elementary students with a full day of instruction starting April 7. If we meet this goal, this will be the tentative schedule:
- A.M. Kindergarten: 8:20-10:50 a.m.
- P.M. Kindergarten: 12-2:30 p.m.
- Grades 1-6: 8:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tentative 4.25 Hour Synchronous Elementary Schedule: If circumstances do not allow us to meet our Full Day Elementary goal for April 7, we will instead increase the onsite/synchronous elementary schedule from the current 2.5 hours to 4.25 hours, with a new goal of increasing to a full day by May 3. If we need to implement a 4.25 hour day, this will be the tentative schedule:
- A.M. Kindergarten: 8:20-10:50 a.m.
- P.M. Kindergarten: 12:20-2:50 p.m.
- Grades 1-6: 8:20 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. (Synchronous)
- Grades 1-6: 2-3 p.m. (Asynchronous)
Tentative Middle School Schedule:
- 8:30 a.m.-2:20 p.m.
- 2:25-3 p.m.: Band/Choir/Orchestra
- Onsite students continue to attend school in-person on alternating days
Yesterday, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released new public health guidance for schools. These guidelines loosen many of the previous restrictions public schools had to follow and may result in additional changes to our plans. One of the biggest changes is that social distancing is now defined as 3 feet to 6 feet. Our administrative team, in partnership with our associations, is thoroughly reviewing this new guidance to determine how it will impact our schools. As we review the new guidance, we will continue to follow our priorities for this school year:
- Follow the safety guidelines from the ISBE and IDPH.
- Increase instructional time in-person and live on the computer to the greatest extent possible.
- Minimize educational disruptions to the greatest extent possible.
I realize our community wants to know what to expect for the remainder of the school year. We just received the new public health guidance yesterday, and there are many facets to coordinate in order to successfully and safely increase the school day. While I wish we could have a concrete plan ready right now, it is imperative our team have time to analyze the new guidance so we can determine the best way to implement it in District 58 schools. I sincerely ask for your patience and understanding at this time. We will continue to work around-the-clock to incorporate this new guidance into our plans and decision-making process. We have shared the tentative plans (see above) that were made prior to receiving the guidance.
The receipt of the new guidance - and any potential implementation - could have an impact on teacher assignments as of April 7. Because of this, we will be releasing teacher assignments along with all of the final details of our instructional schedule on Friday, March 19. We were prepared to share information based upon previous guidance this Friday; incorporating the new guidance makes that deadline impossible.
In addition to processing the new public health guidance, our team is completing other tasks critical to increasing the school day. First, we must hire approximately 150 lunchroom supervisors. All lunchroom supervisors will become a part of the 1B vaccine eligibility group, which means they will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine now through their doctor or other private provider. Once hired, District 58 will give lunchroom supervisors a letter confirming their eligibility in the 1B priority group. Click here to complete a lunchroom supervisor interest form by Friday, March 12.
Another way we can safely increase the school day is by vaccinating our staff. Along with our partner school districts and municipalities, District 58 co-hosted a vaccination clinic on Feb. 28 at Downers Grove South. Nearly 1,300 individuals in the 1B priority group received a vaccine, including any District 58 staff member who wanted/was able to receive a vaccine! Additionally, we vaccinated local public/private school staff, senior citizens, municipal workers and other essential workers. This same group will reconvene on March 21 – prior to spring break – to receive their second dose.
We also must coordinate busing schedules. To save taxpayers money, District 58 shares a busing contract with Community High School District 99 and Woodridge School District 68. This means that we share buses with these other school districts and must work collaboratively to make any scheduling changes. This task is especially challenging now, as all three school districts are planning schedule changes for after spring break.
I am very proud of the perseverance that our staff, students and families have shown this past school year. In addition, I am proud that our community has taken COVID-19 safety protocols seriously. It truly takes a community to slow the spread of COVID-19 and safely increase the school day. I urge everyone to continue to keep vigilant and to follow the 3Ws: Wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. By following these safety guidelines, we can continue to keep our community healthy, which enables us to keep our schools open!
Kevin B. Russell
Superintendent of Schools