Editorial: District 203 is ready for students to return to learning in our buildings.

But in order for us to be ready, we need answers to a few questions...

Amisha Sethi

District 203 announced its back to school plan for the fall during a July 13 school board meeting conducted via Zoom. Families were given nine days to opt in to an all-online option or select (or default to) a hybrid learning model.

Photo Source: District 203

District 203 announced its back to school plan for the fall during a July 13 school board meeting conducted via Zoom. Families were given nine days to opt in to an all-online option or select (or default to) a hybrid learning model.

Central Times Editorial Board

On behalf of the students of Naperville Central, we would like to thank District 203 administration for releasing the “Return to Learn” plan for the upcoming school year. It has been a crazy spring and summer, and we appreciate knowing what’s ahead. According to the current plan, schools will most likely follow a hybrid model, with students divided into two groups alphabetically to learn on-site or online on alternating days. Students also have the choice of attending an Online Academy, with limited course offerings available completely online. 

While your plan offers some insight into what the new school year might look like, it also raises a number of questions. Too many questions, we would argue, to allow students, teachers and their families to feel safe about returning to school. So please help us out, District 203, and answer the following… preferably immediately:

  • Will you be making any changes to how passing periods currently work in the junior high and high school buildings? 
  • How will we avoid the common traffic congestion on the stairways? 
  • How will students maintain social distancing in narrow hallways? 
  • Will traffic patterns be established in hallways? 
  • How will traffic in the bathrooms be controlled? 
  • Will there be a limit on how many people can be in a bathroom at one time? 
  • Will bathrooms be restricted during passing periods? During classes? 
  • Will students have the opportunity for frequent hand washing to comply with CDC guidelines?   
  • How many students will be allowed in each class? 
  • Are all classrooms in every building large enough for each desk to be placed six feet apart from one another?

    While your plan offers some insight into what the new school year might look like, it also raises a number of questions. Too many questions, we would argue, to allow students, teachers and their families to feel safe about returning to school.”

  • What kind of protective personal equipment (PPE) will you provide to students? 
  • What kind of sanitation equipment will you provide? 
  • Will individual schools have different sanitation protocols? 
  • What happens if a student refuses to wear a mask or cannot wear a mask? 
  • What are my rights if one of my classmates refuses to wear a mask? 
  • What protocols do you have in place to protect me from students who are not wearing a mask to help prevent them from possibly spreading the disease?
  • How often will surfaces be cleaned in each building?
  • Who will be responsible for surface cleaning?
  • Will students be required to wear a mask for PE? 
  • What will PE classes do when the weather does not permit outdoor activity? 
  • How will students maintain social distancing during PE?
  • Will fall registration still take place in person? When?
  • How will lunch periods and food services work?
  • Will students continue to receive existing food options, or will the menu change?
  • How will you monitor and regulate lunch lines to ensure social distancing? 
  • Will all students eat in the cafeteria, or are you planning to use additional or alternate locations for lunch? 
  • Will off-campus lunch still be allowed at the high school level? And, if so, for who?
  • If off-campus lunch is provided, what is your plan to ensure that students who leave campus maintain six feet from each other and wear masks during their trips, which seems difficult to accomplish in a car? 
  • What will be the procedure for students who have left campus during the school day and are returning to their buildings and might have traveled to a place that exposed them to the virus?
  • How many students are required to sign up to run a section of a particular course in the online academy?  
  • Will there be extra administration (separate principals, vice principals, student services) personnel for the online academy? 
  • What is the plan for students who must select remote learning for health reasons but are not able to enroll in courses they require for district or state graduation requirements?
  • Do you plan to follow IHSA guidelines for sports, or will you have your own rules? 
  • Which sports will have fall seasons? 
  • What new guidelines have you implemented with regards to competitive sports?
  • How will students in classrooms be protected from students who must violate CDC guidelines to participate in team sports? 
  • What changes will you require to allow groups and teams that have practices to do so safely? 
  • Will clubs still be allowed to meet before and after school? 
  • Can students enrolled in the online academy participate in activities and athletics held on campus? 
  • Can online academy students participate in any school activities or athletics at all? 
  • Will students attending school under the hybrid model be allowed to attend activities and practices on school days when they do not report to the building?
  • How will teachers, who are currently on vacation, be prepared to teach in one month using a brand new hybrid model?  
  • Since kids are expected to complete remote work on days they do not physically attend class, how will they interact with their teachers, who are presumably busy teaching in-person classes? 
  • Will teachers be expected to teach hybrid A in person, hybrid B online and online academy students simultaneously? 
  • If a teacher has immunodeficiencies, or if the teacher is responsible for the care of a family member with health concerns, what options are you providing  for them to teach remotely? 
  • How does your plan ensure that teachers are able to keep their own children and families safe?
  • What are protocols for coming to school if a student feels sick? 
  • Will students have to stay home if they display any symptoms that seem similar to COVID-19 symptoms but could also be symptoms of seasonal allergies or other ailments?
  • What changes have you implemented to building nurse offices? 
  • Will there be a separate area maintained for  students who come into the nurse’s office with COVID-19 symptoms? 
  • Will COVID-19 testing be available at the nurse’s office? 
  • What happens if a student who was in a school building is confirmed to have COVID-19?
  • Do you have enough substitute teachers who are willing to take over the classrooms of a teacher who goes out sick with COVID-19? 
  • Will you be requiring students and staff to self-quarantine as a preventative measure if possibly exposed to someone with COVID-19? 
  • How are you handling contact tracing? 
  • Can we legally hold you liable if a member of the school community should pass away from COVID-19, particularly if they contracted it in a district building?

There is obviously a lack of clarity surrounding how our schools will operate amidst the pandemic. When schools closed in mid-March, there were just a few thousand cases of coronavirus in our country; we now have millions. For teachers, students and their families to feel comfortable with school reopening at this time there needs to be a stronger plan, one that includes answers to every question that we have asked, and many more that we haven’t listed here. To reopen with this level of uncertainty would compound already widespread fear and anxiety, and fuel an unproductive learning environment. If your goal, District 203 administration, is to make sure students receive a quality education during this time, ensure we can do so by addressing our concerns.

To the Naperville community: Clearly, we have a lot of questions, and you probably do as well. We encourage you to reach out to District 203 administrators immediately and demand answers. They have the plan! Below, we’ve provided you with contact information for the individuals who should be prepared to answer any of your questions. 

Before we go…one last question: Why should we feel safe in returning to our schools if we don’t have answers to these questions?

 

*NOTE: If viewing this story on a smartphone, turn your phone sideways to landscape view for a list of names and emails where you can send your questions.