School Reimagined 3.0
Dear Cass School District 63 Parents,
As all of you should know from our recent communications, we have been making plans to allow for more in-person instruction at school, something we view as essential to the academic, social and emotional growth of our students. As we have stated throughout this entire year, our priority will continue to focus first on the health and safety of our students, staff and families, as well as making sure we are doing our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and local community. We have been very successful in this regard and continuing with the same cooperation and vigilance among our parents, students and staff, it is our intention to continue to be equally successful so going forward.
Continuing to ensure the health and safety of the people inside our schools will also help us take this next step that we believe is so important. We have made great progress in our planning and have worked with and sought the suggestions and input of our teachers and staff along the way. Now that we are ready to share the details with our parents, we need your input to (1) make certain that we are on the right track, and (2) what your plans will be once the details are explained and you have enough information to make an informed decision as a parent as to what is best for your children and your household.
As a result, I am asking ALL parents to complete the survey found under the link at the close of this message for EACH Concord or Cass student in your household by NOON ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15. Please read the information that follows and respond accordingly to the survey below. There are also spaces for comments if you would like to share additional comments, but this is totally up to you. Also, please note that we are not currently planning to offer all options listed, but we want to make certain that parents have a voice in our planning.
What is School Reimagined 3.0?
Our proposed School Reimagined 3.0 Return to Learn Framework would combine our Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday cohorts, which means our in-person students would now attend school for four full days of in-person instruction Monday through Thursday. This new schedule includes Prekindergarten as well as 1st through 8th grades.
What about Kindergarten?
Kindergarten students are already half days, four days per week with one full remote section, and we will need to maintain the current kindergarten format and schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 school term. As a result, not all of the survey questions may pertain to kindergarten.
Will Fridays remain fully remote?
To support our teachers and staff and allow some balance of time with planning for the dual effort of providing robust remote instruction in addition to in-person instruction, we will continue to maintain our full remote Friday schedule just as we have since the fall.
Can parents maintain the full remote option?
Absolutely. We will maintain the full remote option for the remainder of the school year. We know this is necessary for our parents who prefer or need this option during the pandemic. Also, we know that depending on the final outcome of our survey and parent input, some parents who currently send their children to school under the blended two day framework may decide it is best to move to the full remote option. We respect and support all of these decisions parents need to make throughout the pandemic.
What else does this change?
Aside from the additional days our in-person students are at school, as well as potentially significant changes with our bus routes, procedures and schedules, the answer is not much. The changes we are pursuing with School Reimagined 3.0 are not nearly as complicated as last summer when we started fully remote or later in the fall when we transitioned to our current blended full day model. In fact, the health and safety procedures, protocols, exclusion requirements, parent and staff reporting, daily self-certification requirements, and even schedules will largely remain unchanged.
When would this start?
The current plan is to start with the new schedule on Monday, March 22, which is the week prior to the district's spring break. While it would be ideal in many ways to start earlier, we had compelling reasons to start at this time, including the completion of the vaccination of our staff who chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Once started and unless health and safety or public health guidance dictate otherwise, we would expect to maintain this schedule until the end of the 2020-21 school year.
What is the status of the current health guidelines?
While working with the DuPage County Health Department, our school district will continue to follow the same health guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control, which encourage in-person learning as much as possible. Also, the current Restore Illinois Phase 4 Revitalization Plan and our School Reimagined Return to Learn Framework states that in-person instruction may resume under the following guidelines:
- Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;
- Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
- Require social distancing be observed, as much as possible;
- Require that schools conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings; and
- Require an increase in school-wide cleaning and disinfection.
Is there an increased risk with more students in school?
Our goal has always been social distancing as much as possible, and it is expected that there will be less social distancing than there is now as there is always an increased risk of close contacts when more people are present in any space. Having said that, we know that the key to avoiding the spread of COVID-19 is wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing as much as possible.
As a result, we will double down on our communications and protocols as it relates to self-certification, following IDPH guidelines with isolating and quarantining, reporting of symptoms and close contacts, allowing for temporary remote instruction when symptoms or close contacts take place, and making certain that students and staff adhere to procedures with masks, personal protective equipment and washing hands, sanitizing and cleaning. By following these procedures, schools across the country have found great success with limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including those with more in-person learning models as proposed in School Reimagined 3.0.
What is the overall rationale for the proposed change?
As a school district, we believe that our students need to be in school with their teachers as much as possible and learn best when this is the case. We have learned a tremendous amount throughout the pandemic, not only in Cass School District 63 but also as it pertains to the science and spread of COVID-19 in schools everywhere. We believe that with continued vigilance and communication, we can continue this success safely and responsibly with more students in school.
Furthermore, our parents who have wanted full remote learning for their children have always had this option. Likewise, the remainder of our parents have had the blended model for some time. However, we also have many parents who would prefer more in-person instruction for their children's academic and social/emotional growth, and most have not had this option to date. We feel that with the knowledge of current science as well as robust mitigation efforts, we can now offer this option safely for our students and families.
Finally, we believe that our staff getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is a major game changer. While there is not a COVID-19 vaccine for children at this time, we know from the research and science that there is a more limited impact on a high percentage of young children and transmission has rarely manifested itself in the school setting. Nevertheless, we will not compromise safety and our parents still maintain the full remote option for their child's attendance at school.
What are the next steps?
At this time, we need the same kind of parent feedback we got last summer and fall. At that time, 44 percent of our parents asked for full in-person instruction and 38 percent blended instruction. While not all agreed, our parents understood at the time why we utilized the blended framework. However, we do not want to make any assumptions and this is why we are following up with another detailed survey.
Parent input is essential in our planning. We will send several reminders to respond to the survey that follows. After the survey deadline, I will share with our parents more details regarding our planning. This will also be shared with the Board of Education for any discussion, feedback and final decisions as it relates to School Reimagined 3.0.
When is the parent survey due again?
Please complete this survey for each Concord or Cass student in your household by noon on Monday, February 15.
I hope this provides enough detail and information for you to respond to the questions that follow. As you all know, you are always free to contact your child's school or me with any questions. I am available at email@example.com if you have any questions. Until then, thank you for your response and input as we consider these very important next steps!
Mark R. Cross, Superintendent