After reviewing District 308’s plan to return to in-person school come early December, the 42Fifty Staff sees several flaws that need to be addressed in order for students and staff to be successful.
The proposed plan consists of a mix of in-person and remote learning. In this plan, school days, with the exception of Wednesday, are broken into two halves, the first with all students remote and the second with half of the school in the building. There is a 55 minute break in between these sections to allow for transportation to the building. The half that goes in the building for the afternoon alternates each day, along with the order of classes. For more details on the proposed plan, refer to the presentation from the meeting.
The timeline of the return to school makes the proposal feel more like a PR stunt to please parents than a legitimate option. Going back on Dec. 3 means that students will see their teachers in-person only twice before finals begin. At this point in the school year, teachers are wrapping up new material, which makes the risk of returning to the building simply not worth it. We support a safe return to in-person learning, but believe that waiting until second semester and implementing a full day would be beneficial for all parties involved.
With masks ideally being worn at all times, lunch immediately becomes a concern. Lunch periods would be either first or last in each of the two sections of the day. As a staff, we encourage District 308 to consider a normal order of classes, with an open campus lunch instead. Students who drive to school will be able to leave the building and either eat in their cars or leave for lunch, which leaves more room for students staying in the building to spread out in the cafeteria. This will eliminate the need for a reconfigured class schedule as well, easing the confusion for students and staff.
Another possible issue with this plan is its significant reliance on technology, requiring teachers to live stream classes while simultaneously teaching to those in the classroom. In other words, every teacher will be live streaming in the same building, on the same network. Inevitably, connection problems will occur; what happens then? Does the portion of the class at home simply not have class that day? All of these questions need to be considered before a successful return to the classroom is possible.
Looking at the bigger picture, this proposed plan will be stressful for both teachers and students following this timeline. A new order of class that alternates day to day will stress out students, just two weeks before their finals. For teachers, the in-class sessions will without a doubt be overwhelming, as they now have to split their attention between watching and interacting with those online and those in the room. Since, under this proposal teachers only see each student once a week in person, it will inevitably be used to proctor tests in person, thus making the days that students attend in person full of tests and further stress.
We prefer the plan implemented by the Yorkville school district, where students go in the building for two full days a week, instead of two half days like in this plan. If we only see teachers once a week, it’s likely that they would opt to proctor tests that day, when they can ensure that no outside resources are used. This not only adds to the stress on students, but means that no real change would be made to the way students are learning material.
The school board will be voting on this plan at their meeting on Oct. 13.
Overall, the 42Fifty Staff supports returning to the building but sees several changes that need to be made to the proposed plan in order for the transition back to the classroom to be beneficial for both students and staff.