Devon Horton, Superintendent of School District 65, provided an update yesterday on the District’s plans to return to in-person learning.

He said students in grades K-5 with three or more “priority factors” will be brought back for in-person learning in the first phase.

He identified five priority factors that the District will use to prioritize which students will be selected to return to in-person learning.

“As we have shared, our goal remains to first and foremost protect the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Dr. Horton. “And yet, we recognize the urgent need to get the children whose families requested in-person learning back in school.”

Dr. Horton said he shared some numbers in his last update on Sept. 25, which he said “are pieces in a larger puzzle.” At that time Dr. Horton said:

  • “In order to maintain social distancing and compliance with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) health and safety guidelines, we are able to bring back approximately 50% of students for in-person learning (based on total enrollment across the District).  
  • “Based on our return data, approximately 60% of staff across the District will be returning in person; this includes 53% of teachers returning for in-person instruction.”
  • In response to a survey, 49% of parents indicated a preference for in-person learning; 40% indicated a preference to continue with remote learning; and 11% did not indicate a preferred pathway. 

In his Oct. 5 update, Dr. Horton said, “We can’t look at any one of these pieces independently as each impacts the other. Based on staffing considerations and building capacities, it is necessary to phase-in the return of our students whose families requested in-person learning. As long as there is not a setback in health conditions, we anticipate the first day of school for this first phase to be November 16. 

Dr. Horton did state how many students can be brought back for in-person learning in light of the staffing considerations and building capacities.

“As recommended in the guidance issued by the Illinois State Board of Education, we are placing a high priority on certain student groups, focusing on those who would most benefit from a return to in-person learning. This was also a recommendation of the Superintendent’s Community-based Task Force this summer. Students were prioritized for return based on the following criteria:

  • Special Education - Does the student have an IEP or 504 Plan?
  • Emerging Bilingual (EB) - Is the student an Emergent Bilingual?
  • Low Income: Is the student eligible for free or reduced price meals?
  • McKinney Vento: Is the student currently experiencing transitional living?
  • Age: Is the student in early childhood (0-5 years old), K, 1st grade, or 2nd grade? 

“In this first phase, we will start by welcoming back PreK-5 grade students with three or more priority flags. Parents/caregivers whose students are slated to return in this first phase will be contacted directly. All middle school students will continue with remote learning at this time. It remains our goal for every child to return this school year whose family indicated an in-person learning preference and look to bring the remainder of students back in the second phase. More information will be forthcoming.”

In his update, Dr. Horton also provided the most current information that the Illinois Department of Public Health provided on a number of metrics that the District is monitoring regarding whether COVID is spreading or being suppressed in Suburban Cook County.

The RoundTable has been reporting on a regular basis up to date data on key metrics that the District is monitoring. For yesterday’s article, click here.

Dr. Horton said, “I can assure you health and safety remains our top priority and if there is a significant setback we will continue to adjust our plans accordingly.”