Letter to Parents
Dear Maroa-Forsyth School District Families,
At a Special Meeting Friday, the School Board approved some recommendations from the District Return to School Planning Team. We want to thank all of you who filled out the parent survey as the team worked hard to take into account that input in developing the recommendations. Safety for all was our number one priority. Please read the full Executive Summary and Memo to the BOE about changing the start of school dates.
Here are the highlights:
• In-Person Learning 4 days a week with remote learning for ALL one day per week. In-Person days are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday with dismissal times set at 2:03 for MS/HS and 2:13 for the GS. Wednesday is a Remote Learning Day for ALL. Details about how In-Person Learning will be implemented will be released after July 24th so parents can make an informed choice. Masks will be required for ALL per health/state guidelines.
• Parents also have the choice to do Remote Learning instead of choosing our In-Person plan. If choosing for your student to be a full time remote learner, you must commit to this option for the entire first semester.
• For parents that choose Remote Learning or if the entire District gets put into Remote Learning mode, expectations for all will be different than the spring. Parent and staff survey data made it clear that there needs to be more accountability and consistency with Remote Learning. Details about our Remote Learning plan will be released after July 24th so parents can make an informed choice. These items will be addressed: grading expectations for all remote learning; monitored daily attendance; consistent technology platforms; family and staff access to Chromebooks/Hotspots; and specific expectations for our teaching staff, parents, and students.
• Full Day Kindergarten will change to a Half Day program (Scheduling TBA).
• High School graduation requirements will be modified for Seniors only (TBA).
• First day for Staff moved from August 17 to August 24.
• First day for Students will start Monday, August 31 and each building will be putting out a schedule for the week of August 31 bringing in separate grades one day at a time. All grades first day back will be Tuesday, September 8th. The last day of school moved to June 4 from May 27th. More calendar changes could happen. Stay flexible.
In closing, please know these plans can change at any time, but we felt it was important for you to know now so you can plan ahead. Also, as previously mentioned, we need more time to put together the exact details of how In-Person and Remote Learning will work. We recognize parents need these details and answers to many questions before they can make a choice for Remote Learning or In-Person Learning. We plan on releasing those details after Friday, July 24th. We also recognize that not everyone will approve of our plans and the changes we have made to this school year. We are working hard to do our best to be in school AND keep everyone safe. I plead for your compassion, patience, and understanding as we forge ahead in these uncharted waters. We will be in touch soon. In the meantime, please call or email anyone on our administrative team and we will do everything in our power to help you.
Take good care,
Dr. John Ahlemeyer, Superintendent of Schools
Return to Learn Reopening Guidelines 2020-2021
Aim: To safely open schools including extracurricular activities for the 2020-2021 school year and respond accordingly during the year.
• We believe that teachers are our most valuable asset to increase student’s educational outcomes and in-person instruction is our goal if at all possible.
• All efforts shall be made to adhere to the Illinois Department of Public Health and Macon County Health Department guidelines to avoid cancelations or mandated closures.
• Health guidelines based on local data will be top of mind when making decisions to establish a safe learning environment for students, staff, and families.
Further, following the Illinois State Board of Education guidelines, taking into consideration the feedback received from surveyed parents and staff, and out of respect for the health and well-being of our students, teachers, administration, staff, and community, the following is our proposed plan for re-opening school in August. We understand these guidelines will not answer every question, and we must remain flexible to changes as they arise.
The Maroa-Forsyth CUSD #2 is adopting two main plans for the 2020-2021 school year with an option to add a third plan if mandated to do so by the State of Illinois. Both plans may be implemented throughout the school year based on the current context of Macon County health data, including COVID confirmed positive cases, presumptive positive cases, and our COVID positivity rate, and any statewide mandates to which the District may be subject, including but not limited to any Executive Orders of the Governor which may be in place at the time that meet the test of the legal court system process.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines will be taken into consideration when implementing all the plans which currently endorse appropriate PPE which includes face coverings, 50 or less in a group, 6 feet apart as much as possible, symptom/temperature screenings, and increased building and personal cleaning/disinfection schedules.
What follows are the main ideas of the two plans and the optional third plan. Please note that our kindergarten program will switch to a half day program and our HS graduation requirements will be modified for the 2020-21 school year for all plans.
Plan 1: In-Person with Parent Option for Remote Learning
Based on parent survey responses, the data makes it clear that our parents want choice if possible depending on COVID-19 data/family circumstances. We have been able to achieve a choice option for our In-Person Return to School plan that allows a parent to opt into a Remote Learning Option. Schools will run on a 2:03/2:13 dismissal schedule four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) with PPE being required (meeting the guidelines of the state/county health departments) as social distancing will be adhered to as much as possible, but given the size of our classrooms, desks are not guaranteed to be spaced 6 feet apart. At this time, masks are required for all. Wednesdays will be Remote Learning for ALL students to give our staff the time needed to plan for the Remote Learning Parent Choice option. Staff will be available that day to touch base with students and facilitate questions, but no new material will be taught on Wednesday. A parent certified approval process indicating the choice for which option families choose will be put in place. Tentative announcement of this plan is set for Friday, July 24 pending completed new guidelines developed for Remote Learning. Parents will have one week to make their decision so that tentatively by July 31, 2020 the district has a baseline number on how many will be doing Remote Learning. Parents must make a commitment for one semester (half the year). There could be unique circumstances that has a student going from In-Person to Remote, but Remote to In-Person will not be allowed. These timelines could change.
Plan 2: Remote Learning for ALL
Flexibility is the key to Plan 2 as schools must be prepared to switch to Remote for All on a daily basis. If a COVID outbreak occurs within Macon County and/or if our school district has confirmed cases, and we are required to close our buildings for a set amount of time working with local health officials, we will automatically shift to the Remote Learning for ALL plan until we can resume our InPerson Plan 1. Whether parents choose Remote Learning in Plan 1 or all students are in Remote Learning in Plan 2, Remote Learning expectations for all will be different than the spring. Parent and staff survey data made it clear that there needs to be more accountability and consistency with Remote Learning. While this Executive Summary does not address the details of the new Remote Learning plan, our team is working on: grading expectations for all remote learning; monitored daily attendance; consistent technology platforms; family and staff access to Chromebooks/Hotspots; and specific expectations for our teaching staff, parents, and students.
Plan 3: Blended In-Person & Remote Learning at 50% Capacity Students
It was clear from parent and staff survey data that this option was not desired. So, we have not put a plan together. However, the State of Illinois could possibly mandate this plan. If this were to happen we have put together some initial thoughts on the matter, but no specific plans. In short, student attendance for in person learning will be divided into two groups with a split schedule. Half of the students will have a Monday/Wednesday in school schedule and the other half will attend in person on Tuesday/Thursday. Friday will be Remote Learning for ALL in order to support our staff for the combination planning they will have to do. The students are divided alphabetically with families within the same household running on the same schedule. On the split schedule, when students are attending in-person, they will be required to follow to health and safety protocols designated in prior scenarios for full capacity (meeting current state/local health guidelines). This schedule is not practical for our HS curriculum and scheduling. At the HS, we would likely develop a weekly schedule that is 80% Remote Learning and 20% In-Person (college style).
Date: July 17, 2020
To: The Maroa-Forsyth Board of Education
From: Dr. John Ahlemeyer, Superintendent
Re: Recommendation – Amend 2020-21 School Calendar, START of the YEAR
Considering the circumstances all schools are up against, the planning team does not think opening of school to have students on campus on Wednesday, August 19 is realistic at all. The planning and adjustments are just far too many to be ready by then.
I am recommending we push school opening back one week for teachers and two weeks for students. Meaning, the first day teachers have to report will be Monday, August 24 not Monday, August 17. In addition to utilizing two institute days that first week for teachers, I recommend we use three of our five Remote Learning Planning days now allowed for school calendars. Those days would be August 26, 27, and 28. If we are going to do Remote Learning with more robust and higher expectations along with In-Person learning this planning week for staff is imperative.
So, Monday, August 31 would be the first day we would have students in our schools. The other adjustment we proposed and I am recommending is allowing each building to open up one grade at a time each day the week of August 31. In other words, there would only be one grade level at a time in our buildings before a full first day open up on Tuesday, September 8th.
There are many reasons for these changes to the calendar on how we open up the school year. Primarily, safety is the number one reason as this schedule gives a chance to modify, adjust, change, and see how the students and the staff will react to all of the new changes. It really gives our entire staff time to give a lot of attention to each student to prepare them for what In-Person school will be like for them. Plus, this opening of school delay seems to align with current COVID-19 trend data.
While more calendar changes might occur, if everything else remains the same we would end the school year June 4 not May 27.