Dear Students and Parents,
I want to begin by thanking you for your patience and understanding, and for the many expressions of support we have received from you. No doubt you are anxious to know what school will look like in the fall. We have been monitoring and, in some cases, communicating directly with other schools in our area regarding their reopening plans, and it is abundantly clear that all schools are struggling with their decisions and plans for this unprecedented situation.
Broadly speaking, every school is contemplating the following options:
• Full continuation of remote learning
• Fully reopening for in-person instruction
• A hybrid of in-person instruction and remote learning
While there are many details that remain to be ironed out, I am now able to share with you that we will begin the school year in a hybrid mode of in-person instruction and remote learning. Specifically, each grade and class will be divided into two cohorts (“Blue” and “White”), with the two cohorts alternating periods of time in the building and periods of time learning from home. For example, if 18 students are enrolled in a class, nine of the students will be present in class on any given day and the other nine students will be participating remotely. It is important to note that we will ensure that all RZJHS siblings from the same family will be assigned to the same cohort in order to minimize disruption to the family.
Our rationale for this approach is two-fold:
1. We feel it is important for many reasons for students to be able to return physically to school (when schools are permitted to do so) for at least some days each week.
2. We are mindful of the very complicated logistics that will be required of us to ensure that this is done in a safe and responsible way.
As I shared with you previously, Illinois schools are required to develop their reopening plans in compliance with guidelines issued jointly by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Generally speaking there are four primary requirements that must be met:
1. Wearing of masks (strictly enforced)
2. Social distancing
3. Daily symptoms checking or self-reporting
4. Increased cleaning and disinfection of the school building
Meeting these requirements creates the need for complex logistical planning of an unprecedented nature. We anticipate that there will be a significant learning curve for us in implementing a host of new protocols, with some trial-and-error and the need to continually evaluate our protocols and revise them accordingly. The social-distancing protocols alone will be challenging and are a primary consideration in limiting the number of people in the building on a given day. Finally, we are mindful of the fact that our school population includes both students and staff, and that some members of our staff are more vulnerable to the risks associated with COVID-19 by virtue of their age and other factors.
For these reasons we judge it prudent to begin the school year in the hybrid manner described above. If, after a period of time, we determine that our safety protocols are functioning well, and that students and staff feel we have achieved a reasonable level of both safety and comfort with our in-person learning, we may then consider the possibility of enabling all students to come to school every day. Of course, it is also possible we may find ourselves in the situation of needing to revert to remote learning for all, whether as a result of contagion within our school community or due to a mandated school closing by government authorities.
It is now widely recognized by schools everywhere that remote learning will continue to be in the mix of how schools provide education to their students. Whether a student is at home because of symptoms of illness, or needing to be in quarantine, or being at high risk for serious medical complications in the event of exposure, or simply because the student’s cohort is scheduled to be at home on a given day, we are committed to making it possible for every student to learn every day, whether in person or remotely. Our goal is to achieve the greatest degree possible of “seamlessness” between in-person and remote learning. To that end, we have begun working with our faculty to prepare them for teaching in a blended in-person/remote learning environment. Regardless of whether all or just some of our students are learning remotely at any point in time, school will be open and learning will continue every day that school is scheduled to be in session.
If you anticipate that your student will need to participate via remote learning on a full-time basis, please email Jason Loeb, Academic Dean, at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief explanation of the circumstances. This will enable us to begin our planning to support these students in a more individualized way.
Obviously there is much additional and more detailed information that we will need to provide you before the start of the school year. Much of this is still being developed on our end so be sure to check your email frequently. We are also planning to hold Zoom meetings with students and parents in the coming weeks to clarify important information and provide you with an opportunity to ask questions, so be on the look-out for those email invitations as well.
Finally (for now), it is important to emphasize something that I think we have all come to realize, which is that all plans these days, whether related to school or other areas of our lives, are by necessity fluid and subject to change. We know that we will need to be exceedingly nimble this school year, both in our planning and in our implementation of plans. Our experience these past months with students, parents and staff has been characterized by an extraordinarily high level of patience, understanding and support as we navigate through these difficult times. I want to end as I began by expressing to you how grateful I feel to be part of such a wonderfully warm and supportive community. Thank you!