Avoca District 37 students will be greeted with a big change when they return from spring break.
District officials announced plans to shift from a remote/in-person hybrid operational model to a modified onsite learning schedule on April 7, according to a memo from Superintendent Dr. Kaine Osburn.
The shift will result in all of District 37’s hybrid students attending school on site every day. It will also provide students with 27 more days of in-person learning instruction over the last 10 weeks of this school year.
“I am sure you know by now that we have taken a safe, cautious approach,” Osburn said in the memo. “I would not take this step at this time unless I was sure we could do it safely.”
Throughout the memo, Osburn cites confidence in the district’s mitigation measures and its ability to maintain an internal COVID-19 positivity rate below 1 percent for the entirety of this school year.
Osburn also reaffirms that the district has seen no evidence of in-school transmission of the virus.
D37 officials say the change in learning model is best to begin after spring break, because the improved weather will allow for more outdoor learning opportunities and better indoor ventilation.
Additionally, the time will allow for staff members who have chosen to be inoculated to receive both rounds of the vaccination.
The district also believes the opportunity to gain more insight for next year’s operational plans is valuable.
“Engaging with a daily onsite schedule now is important preparation for Fall 2021, when we will absolutely be conducting school daily onsite,” Osburn said.
“Engaging daily onsite now also provides a better opportunity to assess how our students are doing academically, socially and emotionally before we end the school year.”
Under the modified onsite daily schedule, at least 85-90 percent of in-person students will be seated 6 feet apart or more with desk shields, according to the memo. Approximately 10-15 percent of onsite students will be seated 5-6 feet apart with desk shields.
Update guidance from the CDC states that while 6 feet of social distancing is preferred, it should not be an obstacle to in-person learning while community spread of the virus is low and staff members are vaccinated, per the memo.
According to Osburn, the district’s medical advisor indicated that a physical distance of 5 feet or more is safe plus face masks and desk shields are also utilized.
Administrators will begin meeting with teacher groups to further review what the change will entail. Principals will be delivering communications regarding upcoming calendar revisions and any potential student changes, the memo says.
There will be no school on Thursday, March 4, because many District 37 educators will be receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has been documented to result in side-effects for many.
Officials say there is no way to predict how many staff members will be able to work that day, so there is a possibility that the district could not operate school successfully.
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.