Local News

District 161 continues to refine school reopening plan

The Flossmoor School District 161 reopening plan dominated the school board’s virtual meeting on Monday, July 27, as district officials continue their pivot to holding school during a pandemic. 

The 18-page plan and an associated 14-page frequently-asked-questions document are expected to grow by about half a dozen pages, at least, before being posted by Friday, according to Superintendent Dana Smith.

The questions and suggestions from board members at the meeting provided a good start on those additional pages, as district officials try to account for as many details as possible before the start of school on Aug. 17.

The health safety measures required because of the COVID-19 pandemic are “causing us to look at all our steps and processes,” Smith said. “Essentially, we are providing the step-by-step movements from the second the child leaves the house until the second they return.”

School officials hope the high level of detailed planning will put parents’ minds at ease as a new semester opens under extraordinary conditions. 

Parents were given the option of having their children attend by remote learning or in a hybrid system that involves a combination of remote and in-person classes. Smith said about 90 percent of parents have made the decision, and staff are seeking answers from the remaining 10 percent.

Questions from board members included whether masks will be provided by the district in case a student drops or loses one, and what steps are being taken so students can identify their own masks and wear them properly.

There were also broader questions about the district’s preparations. Board member Christina Vlietstra asked whether the district was in a position to return to full in-person schooling if pandemic conditions change.

Smith said the preparations are making the district more nimble and he believes it could respond to either reduced restrictions or additional restrictions. He said at a recent meeting that the district needs to prepare for the possibility of going to all remote learning quickly if the pandemic worsens.

“We’ve planned steps and processes we’ll need no matter what,” he said. “I feel like we could pivot to fully in-person or fully remote in a day or two.”

In other business, Smith reported that 17 new teachers have begun orientation and training. 

Associate Superintendent Fran LaBella reported on progress with construction projects. She said the HVAC work was mostly done at Western Avenue School. Some system controls still need to be installed there. 

But delivery of some HVAC parts for Flossmoor Hills have been slowed by the pandemic. She said the system might not be completed there until near the end of August. The uses of rooms would be shifted to account for any problems with the system.

Smith said all spaces will have air conditioning when school starts, though adjustments will continue as the final parts arrive.

The board also approved a revised 2020-2021 school year calendar.

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