Families in Flossmoor School District 161 got the fall semester reopening plan and frequently-asked-questions document late last week, but refinements continue, according to Superintendent Dana Smith.
At a special meeting of the school board on Monday, Aug. 3, Smith reported that the nature of questions from parents has generally changed in recent days, shifting from questions about how the plan will work to requests for clarification on specific situations.
The district will be implementing parallel programs in the fall. Some families chose a hybrid approach, with students attending school in-person two days each week and remote the rest of the time. Other families chose all-remote learning.
In addition to refinements based on parents’ and school board members’ questions, Smith said the district has assigned all but a few students to one of the programs. With those tallies, administrators could make some adjustments to the plan.
Districtwide, about 53 percent of students will attend the all-remote sessions while 46 percent will be in hybrid classes, Smith said. With the exception of Serena Hills School, at 52 percent of students in the hybrid classes, the majority in each school will be in the all-remote classes.
“The requests we’re fielding now are to move from hybrid to remote,” Smith said. “We’re continuing to adjust those numbers and our programs.”
The most significant change enabled by the higher proportion of remote learners, he said, was an extension of the hybrid school day for Parker Junior High School students. Previously, Parker’s in-person school day was scheduled to end at 12:45 p.m. to allow time for buses to be disinfected and returned to service in time to run the elementary school routes. There would have been no lunch service at school.
However, with fewer students than expected signing up for the hybrid option, the district was able to extend the school day to 1:45 p.m., which will provide more instructional time and allow students to eat lunch at school.
Smith said as the reopening plan is further refined, new versions will be sent to parents to keep them informed about changes that will affect their children.
One new piece of information coming out later this week will be teacher assignments.
Board member Christina Vlietstra asked how class sizes were shaping up now that the distribution of students in the two programs is mostly settled.
Smith said some hybrid classes would have about 24 students. The remote classes vary more, but most classes will be smaller than usual. He said one staff focus now is how to adjust instruction to make the most of changes in class size.
In addition to the mechanics of reopening, board members expressed interest in seeing the district account for the emotional and mental health needs of everyone in the school community — students, parents and teachers.
“We want to make sure we are wrapping our arms of support around our entire district, including our teachers,” said Michelle Hoereth, board president. “If our teachers aren’t doing well, our students aren’t doing well.”
She said the same principle applies to parents, because the beginning of the school year is always stressful, and this year will be unusually so.