By Maria Maxham
After voting for an in-person return to school at a July 27 special school board meeting, River Forest Elementary School District 90 has reversed course and will implement a fully remote plan to begin the 2020-21 school year.
In an Aug. 6 letter to families, Superintendent Ed Condon announced the change, stating that "the transition to full-remote learning is in response to mounting concern about the sustained increase of the COVID-19 positivity rate in Cook County, shifting guidance from local, state, and national public health agencies and lack of specific directives for schools about responding to potential disease transmission."
The district wants to give families enough time to make arrangements for the upcoming school year, the memo stated.
Remote learning was always a possibility for River Forest schools. The district's overarching return-to-school plan makes clear that, under certain conditions, a transition to remote learning could potentially be made.
These conditions include the school district being unable to implement or sustain operations in a safe manner and heightened incidence of illness occurring in the local community.
Suburban Cook County's COVID-19 positivity rate increased from 5.2 percent to 5.8 percent in the week from July 22 to 29. Because it's unknown whether that upward trend will continue, said the D90 memo, the decision to return to full-remote learning was made to allow families to make necessary arrangements in the three weeks remaining before school begins.
The change will also give teachers the necessary time to focus on curricula and lesson plans to make remote learning as robust and challenging as possible. Teachers will conduct full-remote learning from their classrooms, where they will have full access to their supplies, teaching materials, technology resources and the district's network.
Remote learning will look different than it did in the spring, according to the memo. A few differences will be:
- Enhanced student engagement through daily learning and high-interest activities.
- Provision of ongoing social-emotional supports.
- Increased communication through the streamlined use of learning platforms.
- Development of clear remote-learning expectations for teachers, parents and students.
- Improved consistency and accountability with reinstated grading practices, regular student feedback and instructional rigor across grade levels.
Board members have indicated their intent to affirm the transition to full-remote learning at an upcoming special board meeting, and conditions will be continually monitored to see if a return to in-person learning can be made.
"Between now and Oct.1, the district will continue to monitor COVID-19 resurgence metrics, await stable guidance from local, state and national public health agencies, and pursue specific directives for response protocols to potential COVID-19 transmission in schools," the school district memo states. "On Oct. 1, conditions will be assessed regarding our ability to physically return students and staff to school in a safe manner. Our objective is to accomplish this goal as soon as possible."
D90 is working with West Cook YMCA to provide remote learning supervision for kids from kindergarten through sixth grade; more information will be sent to families on Aug. 15.
For all the details on D90's updated return-to-school plan visit district90.org.
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