CSD's Learning Decision for 2021

In-Person Learning choice for Pre-K - 5, Virtual for 6-12

To view this newsletter online, visit https://www.smore.com/vka4p.

What you need to know

We know there remains a strong division in our community regarding when and how students return to in-person learning. CSD must make a student-focused decision to do what is best for our students, protecting their health and safety as well as the health and safety of our staff. We must also take into consideration what we know about mitigation and transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

CSD’s plan provides highly effective mitigation and will provide a safe learning environment for our staff and students. Many of these mitigations have been in place since the spring, and they have scaled to maintain a healthy environment as we have brought staff and some students back into buildings. Schools have not been shown to be major venues for COVID-19 transmission.

CSD will move forward with our plan to enact Hybrid Plan B starting January 19, 2021. This next phase will provide Pre-K - 5 students an option for returning to in-person learning while students in grades 6-12 remain in the full virtual setting. The full outline of this plan is provided below. We will continue with virtual learning as currently implemented up through January 15.

What you need to do

Parents of Pre-K through grade 5 students:

  1. Complete the Learning Choice Survey by December 13. It is available via the Infinite Campus Parent Portal, and further directions are below.

  2. Review the CSD Parent COVID-19 Compact. This compact will be shared with families before winter break, and it must be signed and returned to the school prior to beginning in-person learning. Schools will communicate information about how to sign and return the form, including an electronic completion option.

  3. Decide on transportation needs. More information is below.

Parents of students in grades 6-12:

No action is required at this time. However, we encourage parents to complete the Learning Choice Survey for your students in grades 6-12 as well so we can have more recent information on families’ preferences. When CSD is ready to transition to inviting additional students back for in-person learning, families will have an opportunity to update their selection. Read further in this message for what to expect when we invite middle and high school students to return to in-person learning in the Hybrid C phase.

Learning Choice Survey for Pre-K-5:

Your selection is due by Sunday, December 13. The sooner you respond, the sooner we can finalize our plans; please make it a priority to respond as soon as possible.

Pre-K-5 learning choice selection will be valid through April 2 (spring break). Families will have another chance to update their selection if CSD makes a major change to the learning options. Families that have a drastic change in circumstances can contact their principal to make changes.

To plan for mitigation and organize class sizes, we are expanding the learning choice options:

  • Return to in-person learning

  • Return to in-person learning, and willing to continue virtual learning if needed

  • Continue virtual learning

  • Continue virtual learning, and willing to return to in-person learning if needed

This wider range of choices will allow us to ensure in-person class sizes are small enough for social distancing and that there is a balance of students in virtual and in-person classes. If you select one of the options indicating a willingness to switch learning choices, your school may ask you to do so.

These are tough decisions for everyone, and we ask that you think carefully about the best choice for your family and your child(ren). Please log in to the Parent Portal to make your selection (once logged in, click More and then Learning Choice Surveyclick here for video directions). If you have difficulty logging into the Parent Portal or finding the Learning Choice Portal, please contact your school’s administrative assistant.

Your selection is due by Sunday, December 13. The sooner you respond, the sooner we can finalize our plans; please make it a priority to respond as soon as possible. If we have not heard from you by the time we need your response, your school will contact you.

Visit the Parent Portal HERE to make your selection.

For instructions, please watch the video below.

Learning Choice How to Video 12/9/2020

Learning Phases

Where we’ve been:

  • Full Virtual Phase (August 17 to present)
  • Hybrid A Phase: Adapted Curriculum Special Education Students, Pods, and school-based proposals attend in-person (October 19 to December 11)

Where we’re going:

  • Hybrid B Phase: Modified schedules for in-person learning of core academics for PK-5 students (January 19)
  • Hybrid C Phase: Modified schedule for in-person learning at 6-12 (TBD)
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Learning Options- Hybrid B

We will expand our in-person and virtual learning options for students on January 19. A modified schedule that reduces the hours students spend in school has been developed. This modified schedule allows us to control the number of students coming to school each day. We know the modified schedule is not perfect, however, we feel this schedule addresses the learning needs of our students while being mindful of several of the biggest safety concerns with bringing students back to in-person learning. The key points of the modified schedule are listed below by grade band, as we know that what works in elementary schools may not work in a high school setting. Also, please note that a full virtual option will remain a choice for students. In order to match teacher accommodations with students that select virtual learning, it may be necessary to reassign classes for both virtual and in person.

In-Person Learning

Pre-K Modified Schedule

  • Students attend school in-person in small cohorts at least two full days a week and Wednesday will be a virtual learning day for all Pre-K students.

  • Class sizes will be limited to no more than 15 students per class to ensure appropriate social distancing can occur.

  • At-home activities will be provided for students to complete when they are not attending in person.

K-2 and 3-5 Modified Schedules

  • Students attend school in-person in small cohorts for up to 4 hours each day for core academics.

  • Class sizes will be limited to no more than 15 students per class or less if the square footage cannot accommodate this class size.

  • Asynchronous activities will be provided for students to complete when they are not attending in person.

  • Specials classes will be delivered virtually.

  • Students will not eat lunch or breakfast at school, but can pick up grab and go meals to eat at home.

  • Students may have a different teacher assigned for their academic classes

  • If the number of K-5 students requesting in-person learning exceeds our ability to maintain social distancing and cohorting, we will need to have a split in-person/asynchronous schedule (e.g. A/B days). In the event that A/B days are necessary, Wednesdays will be a virtual learning day for all students.

6-12 - Virtual Learning Only

  • Continue with current schedules Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday

  • Adding instructional hours on Wednesday

Full Virtual Learning Option

CSD will continue offering a full virtual learning option for families that select this option. We have summarized what the full virtual learning option will look like here by grade band.

Virtual Pre-K

Parents will continue to have the option of keeping their student in a 100% virtual format. Virtual classrooms will continue to follow the current virtual instructional model. A balance of synchronous and asynchronous instruction will be provided, teachers will continue the 1:1 family check-ins and students will attend their virtual classroom Monday-Friday. At-home materials will be provided to supplement instruction.

Virtual K-5

  • Virtual learning students will be grouped by school and/or class to the greatest extent possible.

  • The hours students spend in synchronous learning in the virtual learning environment will remain consistent on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

  • Students may have a different teacher assigned for their academic classes.

Wellness Wednesday

Grades K-5

  • Wednesday will become an instructional day for all students.

Grades 6-12

  • Adding targeted enrichment and remediation opportunities

  • All students will have synchronous learning hours

All Students

  • Due to the shortened holiday week, January 6 will be an instructional day

  • The last Wellness Wednesday will be January 13

Support Programs

Early Intervention Program (EIP), ESOL, Gifted, Section 504, Special Education (IEP), & Title 1

CSD will continue to provide support services to eligible students. Some of the service plans and schedule of services may need to be adjusted based on whether the student is attending school via the modified or virtual learning schedule. Some teachers and service providers who work with students in multiple grade levels may continue to provide instructional support virtually to avoid interrupting the student cohorts.

Hybrid C Phase:

While we do not have a specific date for when we will move to the next phase, we will continue to monitor community spread and health agency and government guidance to determine when to further expand in-person learning. Hybrid C Phase will add in-person learning opportunities for students in grades 6 - 12.

We hope to bring back groups of 6th through 12th graders within a few weeks of elementary students’ return. Additionally, DHS and Renfroe will communicate further with families opportunities for small groups of students to participate in small-group clubs and activities, mental health check-ins, and academic supports.


Even though community spread is high, we are confident in our mitigation strategies to bring additional students and staff back into our buildings in a small, incremental, and controlled way.

Since July, our district and school leaders have been working tirelessly to implement mitigation strategies and engage community members in this implementation. As our ability to implement mitigation effectively improves, we feel confident that we can increase the number of students returning to in-person learning while maintaining a safe learning environment.

Mitigation refers to the specific actions we can take in our schools to reduce or prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mitigation subcommittee of the CSPC studied our mitigation efforts and made recommendations for enhancements. The main strategies we have in place in our buildings include:

  • Cohorting

  • Use of mask and personal protection equipment (PPE)

  • Physical distancing: 6 feet between individuals

  • Increase ventilation

  • Enhanced hygiene and disinfection procedures

  • Contract tracing

  • Quarantine/isolation procedures

  • Strict restriction of visitors to schools and administrative sites

  • Tool to measure and monitor mitigation via building checklists.

According to the subcommittee, “Each strategy used on its own reduces the spread of COVID-19. No strategy used on its own is perfect, but when all strategies are used together, they may be thought of like a stack of slices of Swiss Cheese. Each slice of cheese has holes, representing possible virus transmission, but when stacked together the holes are covered.”

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COVID-19 Safety, Facilities, and Healthy School Manual

The COVID-19 Stakeholder Planning Committee made numerous enhancements and recommendations to our current COVID-19 Safety, Facilities, and Healthy Schools Manual. The current version is on our website here. We will publish the updated version with committee recommendations included after the holiday break.


Cohorting is the practice of keeping the same students and teachers in the same small group at all times during the school day. Cohorting helps lower the number of contacts each person has. This means fewer people will need to stay home because of a possible exposure, resulting in fewer disruptions to in-person learning. Cohorting is an important mitigation strategy for reducing the spread of COVID-19. Cohorting is an important component in planning for return to in-person instruction at all school levels.

We have set our in-person cohorts to no more than 15 students. Cohorts may be smaller depending on the size and square footage of each classroom. Cohorting in group sizes of 15 or less at the middle school and high school levels is not feasible. As community spread decreases, we can increase our cohort sizes to allow for a gradual return to in-person learning for our secondary students.

Face Coverings

  • Employees and students must wear an appropriate mask or face covering while inside or outside a CSD building, and/or aboard CSD transportation.

  • Student dress code has been modified to include this requirement as well as consequences for noncompliance with mask wearing.

Additional Logistical Information

CSD Nutrition

The Nutrition Department will be providing meals in all locations:

  • In-person students will pick-up breakfast and lunch as they exit the building

  • Virtual students will be able to pick meals up at the school sites on select service days. Meal pick-up will consist of multiple meals. Delivery of meals will be discontinued.

    • Possible pick-up locations include the cafeteria and the entryway of the school building

    • Service/Pickup time 10:30 am to 12:30 pm

  • CSD School Nutrition will continue providing meals at no cost (Free Meals) until the end of the school year.

Please visit https://www.csdecatur.net/nutrition for more information about meals.

CSD Transportation

  • The Transportation Department will clean to disinfect buses between routes.
  • Face coverings will be required to ride the bus.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided.
  • Social distancing while riding the school bus is challenging. Families are encouraged to seek other options such as driving students to and from school, walking, or riding a bike if possible.
  • Buses will open roof hatch when possible to increase airflow.

Look for more communication from our Transportation department after you have made your learning choice. For more details, please visit https://www.csdecatur.net/transportation which we will update as we receive additional details.

CSD Learning Pods

Learning Pods will continue, with some changes:

  • K-5 Pods will be limited to afternoons only on days students attend in-person and will be limited to only those students attending in-person

  • Students will be groups in pods according to their class assignment to the greatest extent possible.

  • Secondary Pods will continue but only will be housed at Decatur High School or Renfroe Middle School only.

For the most updated information on how to sign up for pods, visit https://www.csdecatur.net/Pods.

Town Hall

We apologize for scheduling the town hall tomorrow, December 10 during Hanukkah. After the work session and the Board meeting, and now the recency of this communication, we want to ensure families have enough time to process and consider these plans. Rather than continuing with tomorrow’s scheduled town hall, we will schedule our next town when we return from winter break.

Where can I go for more information and details about this plan?

For more details about this plan and additional information, please visit https://www.csdecatur.net/domain/1754.

Click here for the presentation shared with the Board of Education on December 8, which summarizes the information in this communication. You can also watch the Board meeting, where Dr. Dude and Dr. Fehrman review this plan in-depth, here.