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Local

Update: District 428 fall re-entry will be blend of in-person, remote learning amid COVID-19 pandemic

Students will be split into 'A' groups and 'B' groups, Powell said, with elementary and middle school students attending two full in-person days twice per week and DeKalb High School students doing two half days twice per week.
Students will be split into 'A' groups and 'B' groups, Powell said, with elementary and middle school students attending two full in-person days twice per week and DeKalb High School students doing two half days twice per week.

DeKALB - DeKalb District 428's fall re-entry plan will be a blend of in-person learning and remote learning, with students going in shifts two days per week amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interim Superintendent Griff Powell announced the plan at Tuesday's school board meeting and said details remain in flux in the weeks leading up to school returning in session next month. He said district leaders will work to answer questions but can't accommodate everyone's varying concerns.

The plan was presented as a draft Tuesday for discussion, and the district will issue a survey to families Wednesday to gather feedback for any necessary revisions to the plan prior to final board approval expected July 21.

"We are not obligated to provide an at-home option but as we move forward we intend to recommend at-home or remote options based on the results of surveys," Powell said. "We believe it is ethically and morally the right thing to do."

Powell said he expects enrollment in the fall to be low as a result of ongoing concern regarding the viral respiratory disease pandemic.

Families will be expected to enroll in District 428 per quarter for the 2020-2021 school year, and can opt to do remote learning for a quarter and return in person the next as they wish.

How it works

Students will be split into 'A' groups and 'B' groups, Powell said, with elementary and middle school students attending two full in-person days twice per week and DeKalb High School students doing two half days twice per week.

All students in group A will attend in-person school Mondays and Tuesdays, and group B will go Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be remote learning for all, he said.

Powell anticipates class size to be as low as seven or eight, or as high as 13 or 14 he said, that way they can still guarantee social distancing with those numbers.

Lunches will be changed, too, with free breakfast and lunch provided for students, though no cafeterias will be used, and meals will be bagged individually. High school students will be given a bag lunch to-go after their morning classes while the younger students will take lunch in their individual classrooms.

Masks provided by the district will be required for all students and staff, Powell said, and social distancing and gatherings of 50 or less will be enforced. Symptom checks will be required before entering any building, and if anyone has contact with anyone who tests positive, they'll have to self-quarantine, he said.

"Students with special needs or at-risk identified by student services staff will have enhanced in-person learning," Powell said. "Please keep in mind our plan is intended to be fluid and dynamic. This could translate to an increase or decrease in in-person or solely remote learning."

Board reaction

The board as a whole issued support of the plan, emphasizing the importance of in-person learning for early education, though offered recommended changes and questions to be addressed such as details surrounding educator safety, plans for students with special needs, and what to do if a student or family refuses to wear a mask.

Board President Sarah Moses proposed the elementary and middle schoolers be on a schedule more mirrored to the high school one, with shortened days in part so young children don't have to take their masks off to eat lunch inside a classroom.

"We don't know what we're dealing with with an airborne pathogen," Moses said. "That's a very long day for kids especially elementary to have masks on."

Board Member Samantha McDavid asked about educator safety, and whether the district would allow teachers with health concerns to work and teach remotely.

Powell said the district is continuing to formulate specifics with local and state public health officials and the Illinois State Board of Education.

"We're going to look at diversifying our staffing for those people who have legitimate medical reasons for not being here," he said. "That's going to take a lot of work but I know that's a priority."

McDavid also asked if the district has a course of action for students who refuse to wear masks, since ISBE guidance allows a district to issue a disciplinary referral for anyone not following public health rules.

"What we have been advised to do is first work with that family and mostly educate," said Christy Meyer, D-428 director of student services. "Secondly, we may advise [them] to do a remote-only type of education."

There were also concerns on how to handle if someone contracts COVID-19 in the district, and who will be expected to quarantine.

Administrators at the meeting said ISBE guidance and COVID-19 contact tracing mandates that anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes six feet or closer to someone who tested positive will be expected to quarantine themselves, and will be notified accordingly by DeKalb County Health Department and school officials.

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