Winnetka Public Schools administrators further solidified their efforts to provide more in-person learning opportunities during a special board of education meeting three weeks after they first introduced plans to do so.
At the Monday, Feb. 15 meeting, officials shared their plans to extend daily instruction times at its junior high, Carleton Washburne School, by 75 minutes.
The targeted date for implementation is now Monday, March 15, officials said.
The district’s current hybrid learning plan divides students alphabetically and splits them into a.m. and p.m. groups for half-day in-person attendance and half-day remote learning.
Extended in-person learning plans for Washburne will merge the students together in one cohort of 20-25 students to create additional daily instruction time, officials said at the meeting.
Under the new schedule, Washburne students will attend school daily from 8:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Students will then learn remotely from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Previous learning operations saw students attend from either 8:30-11:30 a.m. or 12:30-3:30 p.m.
Board members commended administrators’ efforts to create more in-person learning.
“I think this extended day model is really hitting the mark in a lot of ways,” board member Megan Panje-Wilson said. “It will serve as a wonderful bridge to getting students back in-person for a full day. So I applaud the district administrative team and staff for all the hard work and dedication to make this happen.”
In addition to the extension at Washburne, district officials hope to implement similar options for students in Grades K-6 at its other four schools.
Superintendent Dr. Trisha Kocanda said the target for implementation at the other schools is April 19. Although no specifics to those plans were presented at the meeting, Kocanda said the administration plans on bringing back more information at the board’s Feb. 23 meeting.
Kocanda also reaffirmed a goal that administrators have continually stated: a full in-person school day no later than the fall of 2021.
“We are working toward that full school day: all students, every day,” she assured the board.
District will go remote for one day after spring break
All Winnetka Public School students will learn remotely on Monday, April 5, the day immediately following the district’s return from spring break, officials said at the meeting.
Learning remotely on April 5 will allow district families and staff members an extra day to adhere to travel guidelines, which currently state that a negative test should be obtained no earlier than 72 hours prior to a return from travel.
A New Trier Township-wide COVID testing site will be open April 2-4 and April 10. Testing at the township site will be free of charge and will only cost the district a minimal fee, officials said.
The district also plans to provide testing kits to all staff members, said Assistant Superintendent Kelly Tess. Winnetka Public Schools provided testing kits to staff members over winter break, she said.
Board members encouraged all district families to take advantage of the access to testing to ensure the safest possible return to school following spring break.
Approximately 50 percent of eligible District 36 staff members have either received or scheduled their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re definitely not quite as far as we had hoped to be,” Tess said. “This is kind of a daily project for us, really seeking out vaccination opportunities for our staff.”
Tess added that the district is hopeful regarding the progress made for plans of New Trier High School’s Northfield campus being used for vaccinations. Officials are hoping that the site will be available to District 36 staff in early March, she said.
The district’s Phase 1a members — which includes nurses, health workers, social workers and psychologists — is “largely vaccinated,” Tess said.
Possible return of some sports?
Some sports for students in Grade 6-8 could return this school year for the first time since early 2020.
Kocanda said that district officials are currently working with the township to see if there’s some possibilities for later this school year.
She mentioned track and cross-country as the two sports being discussed right now.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.