District 203 releases back to school plan for 2020-2021 school year

Megan Cablk and Tessa Devine

District 203 students and parents will have until July 22 to opt into online-only teaching for the fall semester, under a plan outlined at a school board meeting Monday night. Otherwise, students will spend half their time in class, and half online, in what the district called a “hybrid” model. 

In school, students will be required to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing. Gatherings will be limited to 50 people, such as cafeterias and physical education classes. The district will closely monitor students “comings and goings” in order to contain any COVID-19 case. Superintendent Dan Bridges stressed that the plan is fluid because the district is still waiting for finalized state guidelines and because the public health situation could change. 

Amid all the uncertainty, Bridges said the district was trying to balance student health with a need to get students back to school. 

“What has remained constant is our need to be flexible, nimble, and collaborative to ensure we are ready to meet any or future challenges to our return to learn structures,” Bridges said.        

In the hybrid model, students with last names starting with A-L attend school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while students with last names starting with M-Z attend on Wednesdays and Fridays. The two groups will alternate attendance on Mondays. School will start at 9 a.m. on Mondays, a change from the typical high school late arrival schedule. Family members will be kept on the same schedule regardless of last name.

Students who opt to participate in the Online Academy will have at least five hours of engagement a day. Online Academy students will spend 20-30% of their time in synchronous learning, or “learning together” through programs like Zoom, and the rest of their time learning independently. However, there are limited course offerings in both elective and core classes in the Online Academy.

The district is awaiting guidelines from the Illinois High School Association to make a decision regarding fall sports and activities.

District communication will be sent through Talk 203 email messages regarding next steps. The district asked parents to select  the online or hybrid option through the Infinite Campus Parent Portal by the July 22nd deadline.