By Joe Boyle
School District 218 Superintendent Ty Harting indicated on Tuesday that remote learning will be extended after both the state and several communities have seen an uptick in both COVID-19 cases and positivity rates.
"This appears to be a trend over the last several weeks, with some ebb and flow, but with general increases overall," Harting said. "In short, the numbers seem to indicate that we should not continue with our tentative plan to move into Phase 2 and bring students back to the building on Sept. 8."
Harting said that District 218 high schools — Richards in Oak Lawn, Shepard in Palos Heights, and Eisenhower in Blue Island — will continue the Phase 1 Remote Learning plan until conditions are safe enough to allow large numbers of students into the buildings.
"Rather than setting a target date, we would prefer to simply stay remote indefinitely — until further notice — instead of setting return dates that we may or may not be able to achieve," Harting said. "We will, of course, continue to monitor conditions on a weekly basis. Any return date to in-person school will be announced at least 10 days to two weeks before as previously promised. While we understand that this announcement may disappoint many of you, this seems the most prudent approach given current conditions."
Harting did mention that there is on significant change to the remote learning program that had been requested by both parents and teachers. Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8, students will no longer be on an A/B schedule, attending class every other day. Instead, students will be in their Zoom classes four days a week instead of two.
The new schedule is outlined below:
• Students will Zoom their daily class schedule on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
• Wednesday will continue to be an Independent Learning Day — allowing teachers to participate in professional development and have student contact time when needed.
• For now, the school day bell schedule will continue to run from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Due to the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept. 7, the first week with the new schedule will be all Zoom class days (including Wednesday, Sept. 9). Wednesday Independent Learning Days will resume the following week on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
Harting said that more information for parents and students will be provided in the coming weeks. He added that with an extended remote learning plan, that adjustments will be made to the virtual learning program over the next week and a half. Students connecting to Zoom classrooms is crucial, Harting said.
Harting said that building administrators should be contacted if there are any tech or attendance issues for the students.
"We will also continue to dialogue with our staff and with the community about our remote learning program, hoping to continually make improvements in the quality education we are delivering during Phase 1," Harting said. "Your input is important for us to offer the best educational experience for our students during this pandemic."
Harting noted that due to the persistence of COVID-19 Meet the Teacher night and parent conferences will take place virtually instead of in person. Meet the Teacher night will be rescheduled soon to allow parents an opportunity to meet the teachers and learn about the classes.
"Thank you, as always, for your patience as we continue to navigate through the challenges this virus has presented this new school year," Harting concluded.