D181 schools finalize plans to re-open

verything they can to make sure when students arrive for the first day of school Sept. 8 that they and staff members are safe.

That was the message Superintendent Hector Garcia and other administrators gave Community Consolidated Elemen-tary District 181 Board members at their meeting Monday.

With students in the hybrid model split between morning and afternoon sessions, class sizes are at eight to 13 students, well within the available space for 14 to 21 desks in district classrooms.

“We’re very, very happy that those ranges are below that number 13, which will ensure that our kids are at least a minimum of six feet away from another student and many times more than that,” Garcia said.

John Munch, assistant superintendent of human resources, praised teachers and the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers Association for their cooperation in setting up the hybrid and remote plans.

“The teachers and union leadership have been really supportive in their willingness and flexibility in taking a ‘whatever it takes, all hands on deck’ kind of approach, which has absolutely afforded us the flexibility to provide the services that we’re about to roll out to our students,” Munch said. “It’s been a great collaborative effort to make the staffing piece of this work.”

Teachers have been assigned to hybrid and remote classrooms (see sidebar), with physical education, art and music teachers and school librarians supporting students in a variety of roles. Librarians will deliver core content in social studies and science so classroom teachers can focus their time teaching math and reading to students in person.

Teachers who are quarantined will teach from home, if at all possible, with a substitute teacher in the classroom to supervise students.

Each school will have two designated health areas, with one dedicated to possible COVID-19 cases.

“Based on the IDPH guidelines, what is very reassuring is that our nursing staff will be wearing full PPE, so they will have fit-tested N95s, they will be wearing face shields, they will have gowns and gloves,” board member Meeta Patel said. “So we’re hoping that our nurses are going to continue to work even though they will be exposed to a potentially positive COVID staff member or student.”

If a student or staff member does test positive for COVID-19, the district will investigate and then notify first those who were in close contact with the individual, then the classroom, school and district.

“The two hallmark things we want to remember as we send out those communications are privacy and safety,” said Jamie Lavigueur, communications director. “We will never share names or any identifying information of students or staff members who test positive for COVID-19.”

The district is working with a provider who will be able to offer low-cost, highly accurate tests with results in 24-48 hours, Garcia said.

“Very few school districts K-12 are able to offer this,” he noted.

Garcia stressed the role parents will play in screening their children and keeping them home if they are sick. Board President Margie Kleber reiterated how important it is for parents and families to follow safety guidelines outside of school as well.

“If they expose children or other staff members because they’re not being responsible, we can have a problem there, too,” she said. “We’re all in this together and we all have a common responsibility to follow the rules so we can all stay safe.”

The Illinois Public Health Department is expected to issue guidance on transmission levels that would indicate a move to a new teaching model, on a scale from red (remote) to green (in-person), Garcia said.

“That could be issued tomorrow or in a week,” he said, noting that it’s difficult to predict how the school year will unfold.

“I wish I could tell you what is going to happen in a month or what is going to happen in two months,” he said.

More information about the reopening plan, including an FAQ section, is available at https://www.d181.org/reopening.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean