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Superintendent Devon Horton, in a letter to the District 65 Community, announced today that the District will launch its hybrid learning model on Feb. 16. Dr. Horton’s letter follows:

“Today marks a historic day in our democracy with the swearing in of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala D. Harris, the first woman, first Black, and first Indian-American, as Vice President. There is a strong commitment by this administration to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control with detailed mitigation plans and the equitable distribution of vaccines. Overall, I believe we have many things to look forward to in 2021 and this includes the reopening of D65 schools in February. 

Launch of Hybrid Learning Model on February 16

“As a result of extensive planning efforts with involvement from all employee groups, a robust health and safety plan, improving health conditions, and data on safe school reopenings, we will launch our hybrid learning model on February 16 (see calendar changes). With the start of in-person learning, there will be schedule changes and transition for students and educators into new classroom communities. As such, it’s necessary to maintain current classroom environments through parent teacher conferences (week of 2/8) to support student growth and progress monitoring. 

“In December, all families should have received confirmation of their child’s learning pathway (either in-person or remote) along with their daily schedule. We know that our families feel differently about returning which is why we will continue to honor parent choice, to the greatest extent possible. To foster transparency, aggregate student return data, by school, will be posted to our website this week. 

“We know the school day will look different and everyone is returning in a very different place than when they left. We also know that COVID-19 has had an undeniable and disproportionate impact on people of color. As we approach our return, we must remain conscious of the emotions that will be felt by students, staff, and families alike. These will range from anxiety and fear to excitement and relief. We will actively work to build community, prioritize mental health and well-being, and give space so that we can collectively and individually navigate this huge change in our lives.  

“We must approach every day with a commitment to protecting one another and keeping our schools safe. There are proven and effective strategies for doing this – social distancing, wearing masks properly, staying home when sick, and frequent hand washing. In the coming weeks, we will engage our community in a campaign to build awareness around expectations for a safe return. District 65 In-person Learning Health & Safety Measures 

Health Metrics and How We Got Here

“This decision to launch our hybrid learning model was not made hastily. Nor as a result of political pressuring. From the very beginning, I have said that science and safety will be drivers in our decision-making. In consultation with our medical advisors, we revised our health metrics to make district-wide decisions on transitioning between instructional models (remote, hybrid, in-person). We are also adopting a set of micro-metrics to monitor the effectiveness of school mitigation plans and help make decisions, in conjunction with local health departments, around potential COVID-19 related classroom or school closures. 

“The important change that I want to highlight as it relates to health metrics, is that hybrid learning will remain in effect as long as the test positivity rate (rolling 7-day average) is less than 12% in Region 10 and locally. If Region 10 enters Phase 3 mitigation due to substantial community spread, this will also require an adaptive pause and district-wide pivot back to remote learning. Region 10 will continue to be used knowing that many staff live outside of our community. Our metrics remain aligned to the positivity threshold signifying transition to Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Phase 3 mitigation measures. 

“As the world continues to learn more about the COVID-19 virus, public health guidance, along with preventative measures, have evolved. In citing numerous studies and data and in conversations with our medical advisers, we know mitigation measures like mask wearing and social distancing are highly effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We know that we can operate safely when these measures are in place and everyone is committed to following them – both during and after the school day ends. We are also excited that COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to be available to our staff and are encouraging everyone to receive the vaccine as it becomes available. 

“A key takeaway from our medical advisory is the need to take a layered approach to reopening. This includes monitoring of health metrics along with the strong, consistent implementation of health and safety measures (mitigation plans) in our schools. While positivity rates have trended downward since November (Region 10 currently at 8.1%) , we will continue to keep a very close eye on community spread. Whether it be from familiar strains or the new UK strain now found in Illinois, if community spread exceeds the threshold set forth, we will not hesitate to pivot back to remote learning.

Community Forum

“On Thursday, January 28, at 6 pm, we will host a virtual forum to discuss the launch of our hybrid learning model, calendar changes, health and safety measures, metrics, overview of what the school day looks like in various grade levels, and more. Spanish interpretation will be provided and the forum will be recorded. (Event details)

“We must be ‘all in’ for each other, District 65! I am confident if we continue to work together and support one another, we will do great things! Thank you for your patience and support.  

With health in mind,

Dr. Devon Horton

Superintendent”