Elementary schools in Homewood and Flossmoor will not open as planned. Homewood District 153 and Flossmoor District 161 officials announced on Saturday that new directives from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health forced them to move to a remote learning plan for all students.
Elementary schools in Homewood and Flossmoor will not open as planned.
New directives from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health forced Homewood District 153 and Flossmoor District 161 to move to a remote learning plan for all students.
Flossmoor schools were set to start Monday, Aug. 17. The opening date is now Aug. 24. Homewood schools are pushing back the start date a week to Aug. 31.
In a statement from District 161 Superintendent Dana Smith and School Board President Michelle Hoereth, a new schedule was laid out.
“Next week, we will redo all of our remote and hybrid class lists, to create classes that are equitable in size and distribution. By Thursday, Aug. 20, parents will receive updated information” on the student’s teacher and schedule.
Homewood Superintendent Dale Mitchell said students will come to pick up laptops and supplies the week of Aug. 24. A schedule is being designed.
“It’s disappointing, to say the least,” Mitchell said. “We were ready to roll. We had everything in place and our (staff) were very heroic all summer” getting programs in place and buildings ready.
Mitchell said realistically he knew the district would have COVID-19 virus cases, but the latest restrictive guidelines for quarantining and contact tracing among the students and staff would “make it really hard for continuity of instruction.”
Schools received a 10-page Frequently Asked Questions update Wednesday evening. Mitchell said when he read through the new guidelines he found “there are several new mandates or clarifications in the document that make it unattainable for us to open for in-person instruction.”
In their letter to parents, Smith and Hoereth said one of the major hurdles was “the use of N95 fit-tested masks (that) will require additional planning and preparation.”
Mitchell said another requirement was a mandate that students with common COVID-19 symptoms such as runny nose, fever and diarrhea must be seen by a doctor and the student must present a doctor’s report stating the child does not have the virus. All siblings must be quarantined until a diagnosis is given. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list 11 symptoms associated with the disease.
One rule says: Exposure in a classroom should be limited to everyone with whom the confirmed or probable COVID case had close contact, within 6 feet, for at least 15 minutes throughout the course of a day.
Mitchell said the cumulative 15-minute time requirement will be a challenge. Teachers will need to keep track of all movements.
“The guidance changed frequently this summer and we were always able to meet the new standards and provide a safe environment for staff and students,” said District 153 Board President Shelly Marks. “With the new IDPH guidance at the 11th hour we had to make the difficult decision to not operate in person.”
“I know there is tremendous disappointment in many families and I truly wish we could have started the year with our blended model” for the 62 percent of students who intended to be in classrooms two days a week and remote learning three days a week, Marks said.
“We understand that moving to a remote only option will be a hardship for our families and for that, we truly apologize,” the District 161 statement said.