News from CCSD15

June 19, 2020

Dear District 15 Families/Guardians:

I hope you are enjoying these early days of summer and the more relaxed pace now that the regular school year is behind us. Of course this summer, like the end of the school year, is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to impact some of our daily routines and continues to create uncertainty for the upcoming school year.

As we look ahead, District 15 has six active task force groups already planning for the 2020-21 school year:

  1. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) & Mental Health

  2. Technology & Distance Learning in 2020-2021

  3. Health & Safety

  4. Learning Loss & Recovery

  5. Workforce Needs

  6. Financial Implications

These six sub-groups are thoughtfully and creatively grappling with the many challenges and perplexing unknowns for the upcoming school year. Together, we are developing multiple preliminary scenarios to support the reopening of our schools, while placing the health, safety and wellness of students, staff and families as our top priority. Please know that although this pandemic may have changed the educational landscape, our commitment to educating our students and supporting their overall development is unwavering.

Parent Fall Planning Survey

Please take the parent fall planning survey, available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Polish.

Development of Potential Reopening Scenarios

Students in first through eighth grade will begin school on Monday, August 17 and kindergarten/early childhood will begin on Tuesday, August 18. At this time, we are planning for a few different options and are doing so using Restore Illinois as our driving document.

As I am sure you are aware, the northeast region of Illinois is currently in Phase 3 of Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan. I remain hopeful that by the time we start school, we will be in Phase 4 of the plan, which will allow for schools and daycares to reopen under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

ISBE has indicated we will receive more guidance on reopening schools in the coming weeks. Although state guidelines may change the preliminary scenarios we have developed, we felt it was important to plan for all potential scenarios as early as possible to ensure we have time to properly prepare for anything that comes our way. Currently, we are developing five preliminary scenarios outlined below.

Please keep in mind that this brief overview of each scenario is not all encompassing, and is meant to provide a glimpse into our planning thus far. When a final decision is made, a very thorough communication will be provided sharing details of the plan that will be implemented in August.

Scenario 1: Remote Learning Continues (Restore Illinois Phase 1, 2 or 3)

If we regress to Phase 1 or 2 or remain in Phase 3 of Restore Illinois, or as directed by ISBE/CDC/IDPH and/or Governor Pritzker, remote learning will remain our instructional delivery model.

If we are in distance learning, we will refine our practices to include more consistent guidelines and enhanced virtual instruction different from the emergency guidance we worked within during forced school closures. Additionally, the Board of Education has approved the purchase of more Chromebooks, ensuring all of our 12,000 students have a district-issued device in August - making us a true 1:1 environment. We are also working to acquire more Internet hotspots for families who need them to allow for all students to have equal access to technology at home, should that become a reality.

Scenario 2: In-person instruction with health & safety modifications. Restore Illinois Phase 4

If our region has reached Phase 4 - Revitalization, pending guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health, in-person instruction can resume.

If students return to school in-person, many health and safety modifications will be necessary. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued this guidance related to reopening schools, which includes but is not limited to mandatory face coverings, physical distancing, keeping students in small cohorts with minimal movement throughout the building and reducing the number of students on school buses.

If Scenario 2 is implemented, expect a thorough communication outlining the measures we will take to ensure the safety of everyone in our schools.

Scenario 3: Optional Remote Learning cohorts formed (parent choice). Restore Illinois Phase 4

In Scenario 3, parents could opt-out of in-person instruction for their child(ren) and elect to participate in a virtual learning classroom instead. This would be optional, and not mandated by the district.

Virtual classrooms will be established across the district, with an assigned virtual classroom teacher(s). Class sizes will remain within Board of Education class size targets. Children will learn in a virtual setting with other students district-wide. Parents, students and teachers should expect the majority of instruction to take place “live” on Google Meet. Special education services for students with IEPs will be provided. This model, as with all scenarios, is in the early phases of development.

Scenario 4: A blended/hybrid learning environment combining in-person and remote learning. Restore Illinois Phase 4
Like other districts around the nation, District 15 is considering a hybrid or blended instructional model that may include students attending school on some days and distance learning on others. A scenario like this might be implemented to minimize the number of people together at one time.
Scenario 5: Schools are fully reopened. Restore Illinois Phase 5

When Illinois reaches Phase 5- Restored, a vaccine or effective treatment will be widely available. When this happens, we will be able to resume normal, in-person teaching and learning as we did pre-COVID-19. Although we are all hoping for this phase to arrive sooner than later, it seems unlikely that we will be in Phase 5 come August.

Planning Continues

As I stated earlier, the upcoming school year will be different. As we go forward, regardless of which scenario or scenarios become a reality in August, we must be agile and ready to shift our instructional delivery models seamlessly between virtual and in person instruction at any point based on COVID-19. Please use the quieter pace of these summer months to consider how you and your family would adapt to changes in our normal school environment, and potential shifts from in-person to virtual learning.

To include your voice in our planning process, I urge every family to please take a moment to complete this brief survey (English, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, Korean). Your responses will help further inform planning efforts already underway.

As we move through the phases of Restore Illinois, receive new guidance from key agencies, and we get closer to the start of the 2020-2021 school year, I remain committed to providing updates to students, staff and families. Your patience, support and continued understanding will be needed and is certainly appreciated.

Your partner in education,

Laurie Heinz

Superintendent of Schools

This letter is available to read in Spanish, Polish, Japanese and Korean

Parent Fall Planning Survey

Please take the parent fall planning survey, available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Polish.