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Local

Interim superintendent eyeing Oct. 26 return to in-person learning for DeKalb students

DeKalb High School May 30, 2018
DeKalb High School May 30, 2018

DeKALB – DeKalb Interim Superintendent Griff Powell told the District 428 school board Tuesday that the administration is eyeing Oct. 26 as a return date in some form for students in schools.

"The target date is the second quarter, which I believe is Oct. 26," Powell said. "It depends on the conditions and what we're dealing with in the next three or four weeks."

Powell said the school is looking to return high-needs students earlier, as soon as Oct. 12. This includes 18-21 learners, SOAL students (specialized opportunities for academic and life skills), English learners and others.

"The reason we're targeting Oct. 12 is equity," said Kyle Gerdes, director of student services for DeKalb. "They need to be back in and they need access to instruction. We want to prioritize and do on a timeline what we can make happen. If we can do it earlier, great."

Powell said there have been eight positive cases of COVID-19 in employees and three students out of 6,000 during the last two months.

"I called Cindy Graves (of the DeKalb Public Health Department) with those numbers and how she would characterize them," Powell said. "Her remark was low risk. I would not make any other statement than those are the numbers we're are currently dealing with."

Board member David Seymour asked how the teachers were responding to a return to learn, as they had opposed the board's initial decision to go in-person on July 22 before reversing course on Aug. 4.

Powell said there was some resistance.

"As you can imagine, a lot of the discussion is emotional," Gerdes said. "By involving all staff who are a part of the programs we're helping them work through that. We also have to learn which members could take leave for various reasons. We have to factor that into the staffing process."

Board member Jeremy Olson asked if there was a way to make the in-person start dates sooner. Gerdes said they're working feverishly to make it happen as soon as possible.

"We're looking at self-contained programs to start on Oct. 12, and there's a lot of logistics to work out," Gerdes said. "It's everything from the transportation piece to the type of schedule we run. If we have a long day we have to account for lunch. Do we have staff available whether it's classroom teachers or paraprofessionals. We're just getting everyone around a table to collaborate as much as we can from the people who run the programs all the way to administration."

While there were no firm plans mentioned during that discussion, in a discussion about school bus contracts, Powell mentioned the school was considering an A/B model for K-5 and minimal in-person activity for grades six through 12, with students coming on alternating days.

Powell did say K-2 had the district's "full attention" in terms of a return in-person.

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