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Schools prepare to reopen

Friday, Jul 10, 2020

* CTU press release

Nearly 5,000 educators responded to a member-wide Chicago Teachers Union survey, issued in mid-June, which asked them to begin thinking about the conditions required for Chicago Public Schools to safely re-open in the fall without risking the health of students and their families, and school staff and communities. Caught between the gross ineptitude of Donald Trump’s U.S. Department of Education, and the uncertainty from Chicago Public Schools, more than 85 percent of CTU member respondents feel they should not or might not go back to work in the fall without a detailed plan and resources that will help guarantee the safe re-opening of our schools. […]

The Union is currently in negotiations with CPS on guarantees that schools will have what is necessary to open safely when appropriate. More than two-thirds of members surveyed said they would not return to work without masks, gloves and other PPE provided by the district, and required for everyone who enters a school building; the daily sanitizing of every surface in the building; a plan that would limit the number of students physically present in classrooms; class sizes that allow for students and staff to always be six feet apart; and multiple hand-washing stations throughout a building.

More than 85 percent of CTU member respondents feel they should not or might not go back to work in the fall without a commitment to school-based safety teams providing input on safety needs and plans; daily COVID-19 testing and temperature screening for everyone entering the building; a nurse or other health professional in every school, every day; remote learning options for particularly vulnerable students and staff; a transportation plan for students that involves distancing on school buses as well as Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains; and a social worker or counselor dedicated to helping students and staff in every school, every day.

Ninety-six percent of members said adequate devices and Internet connectivity for every student must be in place before returning to school, highlighting the digital void that exists for many Black and Brown students on the South and West sides of the city. Nearly 70 percent of rank-and-file members were not at all comfortable or mostly uncomfortable with the idea of medically compromised educators being forced to work in-person, in school in the fall.

Members in more than two dozen positions, from clinicians, social workers and special education, to art, Pre-K and PSRPs, submitted to the Union detailed concerns about what a return to in-person work must look like for their particular job and job duties.

Clinicians, for example, cited adequate space to meet with students (“i.e. not a closet”); special education teachers spoke of the need for PPE working in therapy situations or with students who do not comprehend social distancing (“Keeping students with autism or cognitive disabilities six feet apart will be a problem”); speech/language pathologists must have a way for their mouths to be visible to students so they can provide articulation therapy with speech sound errors; and primary teachers noted that “little people want to hug and they need a teacher’s touch,” while in Pre-K, keeping preschoolers social distant from one another may negatively impact them educationally, socially and emotionally.

School clerks, often in the most trafficked part of the building, should no longer be required to perform nurse duties of administering medicine or tending to injuries and illnesses.

* DuPage ROE press release

The DuPage Regional Office of Education (ROE) announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have partnered with BloomBoard, a leading platform for educator advancement, to support DuPage County schools in providing effective blended instruction. The partnership will make BloomBoard’s Fall Readiness Program available to DuPage County school districts.

“As our schools make decisions on how best to educate students this fall, we welcome the opportunity to partner with BloomBoard to provide DuPage educators with a comprehensive professional learning option to prepare themselves for blended instruction,” said Darlene Ruscitti, regional superintendent of DuPage County Schools.

The advantages of BloomBoard’s programs will be two-fold: its Fall Readiness Program will coach educators to up-level their blended learning instruction to meet students’ academic and personal needs during this pandemic, and its micro-credentialing framework will provide districts a customizable continuing education program that can align with each districts’ needs long-term, support teacher growth, and lead to improved student outcomes.

* East Moline

At their first in-person school board meeting since March, United Township High School Board members voted to approve a Return to Learn plan that will see students both on campus and learning remotely.

Administrators presented their plan Wednesday at a special meeting. Superintendent Jay Morrow said the blended learning approach would deliver high-quality education while prioritizing staff and student safety.

Administrators said they had been working since March to develop plans that prioritized as much face-to-face instruction while also adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health. […]

Morrow said busing would continue, with about 24 students, one for each seat, on each bus. Morrow said state guidelines allowed for 50 individuals in one space, but the district did not feel comfortable with that. He said he felt confident the district could manage with the reduced capacity.

* Near Peoria

Nearly 95 percent of parents surveyed with children in Morton schools intend to send their children back to class in August despite the COVID-19 pandemic — according to the school district.

The results of that survey were shared with the school board on Tuesday by Superintendent Jeff Hill — where more than three-quarters of students had parents participate in the poll, upwards of 2,400 in all out of a total school population of approximately 3,100.

Hill said more than 64 percent of parents indicated that their children will return to school, without conditions. Another 30 percent said their kids would be present with certain stipulations.

According to the release, of that 64 percent, more than half said they felt strongly that students should be permitted to take a break from the mandatory wearing of masks at some point during the school day.

* On to ISU

[Illinois State University President Larry Dietz] rolled out a list of safety measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a requirement for students, staff and faculty to wear face coverings in all campus facilities. The university will have a mix of classes that are online, face-to-face or a hybrid of both. […]

The fall semester will begin Aug. 17 and end Dec. 11, but all classes will be online after Nov. 20.

“This decision is being made in an effort to provide students who can stay home with the opportunity to do so and to de-densify campus immediately following fall break and the Thanksgiving holiday — when many students, faculty and staff visit with friends and family, as well as travel,” said Dietz.

* UIUC

To anyone considering taking in this weekend’s Greek Reunion activities, University of Illinois officials have a request: Don’t.

Danita Young, the UI’s vice chancellor for student affairs, wrote a lengthy letter to students detailing her concerns in advance of the annual event, set for today through Sunday.

“The continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic makes any large gatherings a significant risk for the spread of this deadly virus,” Young wrote.

The Greek Reunion has no status as a university-endorsed event. It isn’t sanctioned by the UI and has no ties to the school’s Fraternity and Sorority Affairs programming.

* Big Ten

Almost four months after the college sports world halted because of the coronavirus pandemic, another seismic change happened Thursday.

Illinois, along with the rest of the Big Ten, will play a conference-only schedule with its fall sports teams this upcoming school year. That is, if it’s able to do so.

Those are the words from the Big Ten, which released a lengthy statement Thursday afternoon announcing the news but offering up no specifics.

No revised game schedules were released. No updates about whether fans would be able to attend said sporting events — again, if they even happen.

What’s happening in your own school districts and colleges?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

47 Comments
  1. - Ok - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    This is CTU getting out ahead of a separate survey done by CPS of parents. This is going to be a big messy battle.


  2. - RJ - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 10:56 am:

    This clever Indiana School District is forcing parents make the decision (with very limited notice) to either send their kids back to school or remote home school. Perhaps an attempt to avoid liability by not making a decision? Not sure how parents and school teachers are reacting to this (Sophie’s) choice?

    https://kshb.com/news/coronavirus/blue-springs-school-district-parents-weigh-options-for-2020-21-school-year


  3. - Huh? - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    I am so glad that my children are grown up, through college, out in the corporate world, and living with their SO’s. The thought of having to figure out if it is safe enough for them to go back to school is a relief for me and my wife.

    I have a son-in-law who is a teacher. I worry what his school district is going to do this fall.


  4. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:01 am:

    Still no word from our kids’ small rural school district just East of Springfield. “Plans are currently being formulated” is all we’ve been told so far. I take night courses at UIS, which is planning on resuming in person classes, but I’ve registered for online-only courses for the fall semester. I see no reason to take the risk when online openings are still widely available.


  5. - Diver Down - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    Indian Prairie 204 (Naperville/Aurora area) is having a board meeting Monday night to approve the working groups’ recommendations so won’t know much until then.


  6. - Pundent - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:06 am:

    Haven’t heard much at this point other than it’s being worked on. I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen the types of surveys other districts have used. It would seem that part of the solution is understanding the unique circumstances that warrant or support in-class learning vs. on-line instructions. You can’t formulate options without knowing what parents can or cannot support.


  7. - Downstate - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:12 am:

    It’s a travesty that Illinois will give a deferral to incoming freshman, but will not give them credit for any classes they might take at another university or college in the interim.

    So, transfer classes from other junior colleges, that were acceptable only 6 months ago, are now worthless by the new rules of Illinois, if taken during the next year, by deferred freshman.


  8. - revvedup - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:25 am:

    South Suburban College (South Burbs of Chicago) announced all online courses, with limited on-campus work for courses requiring lab or simulation work (nursing, biology, chemistry, etc.). Limited on-campus student support services also.
    Thornton Township High Schools (Dist. 205; Thornton, Thornridge, and Thornwood HS’s) are still formulating their plan for 2020-2021.


  9. - Bob Loblaw - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:29 am:

    March 16th, 12 new cases = close the schools

    July 9th, 1,018 new cases = prepare to open the schools


  10. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:31 am:

    IL Wesleyan has moved up their school start date and cancelled fall break so they can have fall finals before Thanksgiving. That seems like a good idea to reduce outbreaks from family gatherings being brought back to campus.


  11. - DownStateEr - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:33 am:

    All of the public universities will require masks of students and employees unless in their own rooms or offices. Some students/parents are communicating that they/their kids will not be attending due to the mask requirement. Probably for the best.


  12. - JS Mill - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:36 am:

    We are still working on our plan with a goal of being done by the end of the month (giving three weeks for parents to digest).

    Agree or disagree with the individual district plans, districts are working very hard in an environment with many unknowns and a lot that is outside of our control.

    We will have in person school (unless state changes rules) with mask wearing and other precautions. There will be limited elearning options right now. We are working on our capacity to provide instruction if we get another stay at home order or we have students that medically cannot attend.


  13. - Demoralized - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    ==We are working on our capacity to provide instruction if we get another stay at home order or we have students that medically cannot attend.==

    I hope all schools are doing this. Schools failed miserably at eLearning at the end of last year. It was not their fault. But, I hope they are much better prepared if this becomes a thing again. The last 3 months of school were a collosal waste for my kids.


  14. - Demoralized - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:41 am:

    I think Springfield is still tyring to figure it out. I believe a plan is forthcoming at the end of the month.


  15. - Going backwards - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:42 am:

    I read yesterday that #1 Attorney Thomas DeVore is suing the Quincy School Board and the State over the plan that was sent out. He has one client in Quincy, but is suing for all the people of Illinois.
    That’s just the kind of guy he is.


  16. - Lynn S. - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:45 am:

    Downstate,

    May I ask where you’re getting that information, regarding transfers of credits earned during deferral?

    By “Illinois”, I’m assuming you mean the University of Illinois, not the State of Illinois.


  17. - Lynn S. - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:47 am:

    Good ol’ Thomas DeVore, Esq.

    Don’t know what the state of Illinois would do without him.

    /s


  18. - Demoralized - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:48 am:

    ==and the State ==

    Nothing to sue the state for. They just issued guidelines. They don’t control what the districts do with those. Not sure if that attorney is aware but we have local control Illinois. He’s not a very sharp attorney.


  19. - Jocko - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:52 am:

    If the summer heat and outdoor space at Camp Kanakuk doesn’t work, what hope do schools have?

    https://tinyurl.com/ydg977gs


  20. - Zim - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    DeVore single-handedly discredits the GOP’s talking points about overzealous trial attorneys and tort reform. God bless ‘Murica.


  21. - Flapdoodle - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 12:25 pm:

    @Lynn S –

    I wondered, too, but it’s apparently true:
    https://admissions.illinois.edu/Apply/International/coronavirus#delay
    under “Delaying Admission”.


  22. - DuPage - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 12:37 pm:

    I hope the schools have their HVAC adjusted for more fresh air intake and more exhaust of return air. Also they should replace the standard air filters with HEPA grade filters, and install UV lights in the air ducts. Also, the schools should supply the soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer for each classroom. I have heard about teachers having to buy and bring in these items for their classrooms because the school runs out.


  23. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 12:39 pm:

    Discovered just several months ago, COVID 19 is today the sixth leading cause of death in America…beware.


  24. - CJA - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 12:43 pm:

    – RJ @ 10:56am
    My district is doing the same thing. Not “sneaky” as you say, but perfectly sound in terms of safety and logistics. If parents/students refuse to wear masks, then they aren’t allowed in buildings, so they are choosing to go with remote learning. Even at 1/2 capacity, you are putting faults and students in confined areas for 5+ hours at a time. It is the least the districts can do to protect more vulnerable individuals.

    From a logistical standpoint, having parents to keep their kids home forbade span of weeks then send them, then perhaps keep them home again is an instructional nightmare. So, parents need to make a decision.

    My district is requiring a commitment for 1 semester for HS students and 1 trimester for younger.


  25. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 12:48 pm:

    Universities all over the country are faced with real challenges in dorms, food services, let alone instruction, labs, faculty… then the students who might be paying tens of thousands of dollars for 3-4 half the time online classes, then no athletics, muted Greek life, muted social interactions, apartment living… think about medical facilities at universities, they face the challenges as per all facilities, now add college students interacting outside the necessary personnel for the hospital.

    My take is quite simple;

    Do the best we can do to safely open, but it must include online learning as an option, and instructors, from Pre-K to Doctorate advisors… every and ALL necessary protections for themselves and for the students from these teachers.

    Let’s be frank;

    Trump is having people who attend his rallies sign waivers.

    Yet,

    Schools must open, at all costs.

    If you’re signing waivers to actually stand with people, how can learning in a classroom not need such a worry for waivers?


  26. - tea_and_honey - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:04 pm:

    @Flapdoodle

    Looking at the web address of that link does that policy just apply to international students?

    The webpage itself didn’t say and I couldn’t back up through the menus and get back to that same spot to check.


  27. - Flapdoodle - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:09 pm:

    @tea_and_honey –

    Seems to apply to all students: “Our delayed admission program allows newly admitted, degree-seeking students to defer the start of their education for one to two semesters due to U.S. military service, medical issues, and/or unforeseen events like COVID-19.”


  28. - JS Mill - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:19 pm:

    @Demoralized- Yes, most districts are working on elearning plans.

    =Schools failed miserably at eLearning at the end of last year=

    I respectfully disagree, I think schools (at least the ones I am familiar with) did a commendable job with elearning.I think part of the issue is understanding what “elearning” was intended to be and how pk-12 schools are structured. Versus what many see when they log onto Khan Academy or one of the for profit providers of online and distance learning. It was never intended to look like the University of Phoenix.

    Online and distance learning, even in its highest form still falls well short of best practice in pk-12 education. Districts that are at the top of their game focus collaborative, inquiry and experiential learning that is student centered. Classes like art, math, music, and science cannot be taught properly online. Online learning is heavily teacher centered with lecture (video is just a fancy lecture) and pk-12 students struggle to stay engaged for very long. It is also hard to monitor student behavior through a screen.

    Prior to the pandemic we utilized technology as a supplement for instruction, not as the prime modality. Khan Academy is awesome, but it is a supplement.

    Our primary grade students (pk-4) are not ready for online or distance learning. They are learning the basics of life and socialization is incredibly important. While they can master playing games and watching videos, mastering learning tech is not in the skillset for most primary students.

    Providers of online content invest massive amounts of money to get to the point their at. Obviously individual districts cannot do that.

    We are working on live-streaming our instruction. That will be an improvement but still nowhere near in-person instruction. We can do better and we will try, but it will take time to getthere.


  29. - Downstate - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    —–”Downstate, May I ask where you’re getting that information, regarding transfers of credits earned during deferral?”

    Lynn S,
    It is from the Illinois.edu website in the undergraduate admissions section.

    Again, I think it’s horrible that the credits from junior colleges that were acceptable to UIUC less than a year ago, will now be worthless if someone opts to defer their admission.


  30. - Downstate - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:25 pm:

    “Seems to apply to all students:”

    Yes, particularly given the fact that they specify “US military service”. It’s doubtful there are many international students that also are involved in US military service.


  31. - tea_and_honey - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:31 pm:

    @Downstate

    Full disclosure, I don’t work at U of I but I do work at another one of our state universities. I can’t be certain but I wonder if this is related to programs that only admit freshmen students (not transfer students). We have one such program where I am - if a student took classes during their deferral year they’d not longer be a new freshmen, they’d be a transfer student and therefore not eligible for that particular program.

    If that’s what they are trying to convey then what they’ve written is a terrible way to explain that issue.

    If it isn’t related to a very specific program like that then I agree it is a very punitive policy.


  32. - Downstate - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:46 pm:

    tea and honey,
    Thanks for the explanation. And I concur with your points.

    There are some Universities (out-of-state) that are announcing that they will be opening the campus and starting classes on time. But the majority of classes, and in one case 80%, will be held-online. So essentially the incoming freshman are going to campus, only to sit in their dorm rooms to attend class.


  33. - OneMan - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:49 pm:

    Also like a lot of other schools, they are eliminating the breaks and doing finals shortly after Thanksgiving (and remotely) and extended the break between semesters so he will be home hypothetically from Thanksgiving to Feb 1st.


  34. - the Patriot - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:49 pm:

    SIU seems to be leaving up in person vs remote to the professors.

    Local districts are all all working out plans, but their populations, facilities, and resources all dramatically change. Don’t forget, the ISBE IDPH guidelines is a massive unfunded mandate.

    Everyone quit complaining about your districts plan. It is an impossible situation. Get in the boat and start rowing or shut up. Buy some hand sanitizer, clorox wipes, or a chrome book. Trust me, the districts know the problem, they need help with the solution.


  35. - tea_and_honey - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    @Downstate

    I’d say the odds are greater than 50% that all universities will be that way by the time we get going (or soon after).


  36. - Proud Papa Bear - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 1:59 pm:

    My high school district is running an A/B schedule. Half of the kids come one day, the other half the next day. Classes should be about half size to physically distance. I’m not exactly sure yet how the kids on the “at home” days will learn. Perhaps we will live-stream the class.
    Students with significant special needs will come every day.
    It’s going to be a massive learning curve.


  37. - Ano - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:00 pm:

    In this suburban area, online learning (as we were informed by local schools) worked very very well. Students were engaged, responsible and active online. Of course, our students are on laptops in kindergarten so, this is not some overwhelming new format for them.

    I’d say this has been an unplanned thrust into our future. If parents think their children will face a future of employment devoid of electronic interaction, they’re living in the 1950s. All the young people in my extended family perform 90+% of their work on computers–interacting with peers, conducting meetings, etc. Before the pandemic.

    Is this an easy mode of interaction for all? Probably not……….except I’d bet some who have trouble “learning” online are adept at online gaming. So…..

    The world is changing rapidly and those who can adapt will succeed.


  38. - Downstate - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:01 pm:

    @tea and honey,
    The shame of that is the Universities are “herding” these students to closely confined living quarters (shared dining, bathrooms, etc.), only to have them taking classes remotely.
    Not being able to go to class will only exacerbate the “cabin fever” the freshmen will feel and likely result in their extra socialization with the larger campus population.


  39. - OneMan - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:16 pm:

    @downstate
    for a lot of college-aged students (especially Freshman) being told they have to spend more time in their room where their gaming stuff is would be considered heaven.


  40. - tea_and_honey - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:17 pm:

    @Downstate

    Again I can’t speak for every institution, but ours has eliminated the requirement to live on campus so students can elect to stay at home if they are primarily online (or get an apartment which is what many are choosing to do).


  41. - Graduated College Student - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    (Sees stuff about Morton, Illinois)

    Yeah, most 1950s sitcoms would be ill-equipped to comprehend the realities of a pandemic.


  42. - Going Backwards - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:38 pm:

    For full disclosure I went back and researched and the what I heard him called today Hero Thomas DeVore is only filing a lawsuit against the Quincy School District. This was posted to everyone who cares about their children.
    Anyone willing to truly grasp the importance of this case should take the time to read the case law provided in the Memorandum in Support of the filing. We took the liberty of highlighting some of the key points in those cases. While we understand the numerous health concerns being raised across this state relating to COVID-19, we ask that those concerns be properly placed within the rule of law. This case highlights the importance of following the laws passed by the Legislature rather than allowing public bodies or State Agencies to create their own laws as they deem fit, which is what appears to be taking place currently with schools throughout the state.
    With my hand in the air she said he was their Hero.


  43. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:47 pm:

    - Going Backwards -

    Huh?

    Thanks.


  44. - CJA - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:54 pm:

    @JS Mill 1:19 - I would agree with what you said but also say that what schools did for eLearning in the spring does not have to be what do in the fall. Many districts turned on a dime to help provide for their students, and not just in terms of learning and technology. We can certainly improve the eLearning part from the spring and not repeat those shortcomings.

    @Proud Papa Bear 1:19 - Students will be expected to do 5 hours of eLearning on their “off” days (not in physical attendance). So, they will be doing lessons online, not necessarily streamed, but could be supplementary to what was done in class, independent practice, etc. That is the core idea behind “blended” learning, which is what eLearning is called when you have some in-person instructional time.


  45. - Demoralized - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 2:59 pm:

    ==I respectfully disagree,==

    You may, but speaking for my kids the school failed them miserably. Teachers and school districts are going to have to do much, much, much better if distance learning is going to be the norm this year. Otherwise you are going to leave a whole bunch of kids behind.


  46. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 3:25 pm:

    As of last Monday, colleges in Chicago who enroll students from any of the 15 states with high rates of infection are being told these students must isolate in quarantine for two weeks once they arrive. And the list of states can change weekly.

    Talk about throwing a wrench into planning to safely reopen. I suspect a large number of these students will either ignore this unenforceable mandate or will stay home instead. The colleges will do what they can, but it seems unnecessarily cruel to expect this to happen easily.


  47. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jul 10, 20 @ 3:32 pm:

    Harvard…Princeton…Stanford…know better?


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