OPRF likely to have another year of remote learning

Administration says in-person learning not feasible

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Oak Park and River Forest High School students will likely start the upcoming 2020-21 school year at home. During a special meeting held July 9, District 200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams laid out a reopening plan that calls for more remote learning next school year, but the experience will be much different than the remote learning of the last several months, she said.

"We had to confront some sobering limitations," Pruitt-Adams said at Thursday night's meeting.

The superintendent said that any in-person learning would be restricted by daily temperature and symptom screenings conducted by personnel, face coverings would be mandatory and building capacity would be capped at 20 to 30 percent of students on campus at one time. Pruitt-Adams added that opening for in-person instruction would also mean an additional $1.8 million in unanticipated expenses for the district.

"As we confronted the constraints," she said, "it became painfully clear that bringing students and staff back safely simply isn't feasible."

The superintendent's recommendation reflected the work of the Reimagine Education OPRF 2020-21 Steering Committee, an entity that was created after the pandemic forced schools across the state to close in March.

The steering committee mostly includes administrators. Sheila Hardin, an OPRF math teacher and president of the Faculty Senate, also sits on the committee.

Pruitt-Adams explained in a board memo that the committee "conducted two surveys of students, faculty, and families to get specific feedback on their remote learning experiences." The surveys received around 2,400 responses, she said. In addition, OPRF's Special Education department organized focus groups of 15 parents and staff designed to discuss their experiences with remote learning.

Back in June, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that all regions of the state would enter Phase 4 of his reopening plan, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education released joint guidance allowing for local school districts to decide whether to resume in-person learning, remote instruction or a blend of both.

Pruitt-Adams, along with other members of the steering committee, said that their research and analysis showed that a blended model would have meant significantly less instructional time for students and less instructional flexibility for teachers.

With the remote learning model, Pruitt-Adams said, students would have four periods a day, with each class meeting online on either Google Meets or Zoom for at least 30 minutes and no more than 100 minutes.

"We want to be back in the building with our kids," said Associate Superintendent Greg Johnson at Thursday's meeting. "It is absolutely our number one priority. We want to do it. We have to find a way to do it safely. We simply do not know how to find a way that is going to work for all of our students' needs while maintaining the safety of our faculty, staff and students."

"I worry that not just in our community, but across the country, we're struggling with in-person as a phrase, as if it will be what we remember from August and September last year, said Hardin. "And it simply will not."

Hardin said that "full remote learning" will give students the most time learning and will give "me, as a teacher, the most face-to-face experience with my students while keeping them safe and the staff safe."

Pruitt-Adams said the steering committee will work to "shore up the plan" before bringing it back to the board, which will vote on a resolution that charges administrators to implement a reopening plan and to make changes to the plan, if needed.

Technically, ISBE had given superintendents across the state the latitude to make decisions on reopening without board approval, but Pruitt-Adams said that she wanted to board support nonetheless.

The district is also planning a virtual town hall to allow community members the opportunity to discuss the reopening arrangements before the school year starts.

Contact:
Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2020 7:22 PM

Lockdowns were enacted for 2 reasons - 1. Prevent the health care system being overwhelmed, and 2. Protect those at risk. Can someone explain why the schools are locked down based on this criteria?

Michael Nevins  

Posted: July 16th, 2020 8:36 PM

Speaking of the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/COVID19/index.htm. Yes, both tests AND positive results are rising nationally. However, more importantly, deaths are dramatically declining. I'll be the first to acknowledge that "unprecedented" and "uncertainty" are two semi-new phrases I've used a lot the past couple of months. Therefore, I thought I'd add a phrase I haven't used in a while: "this is good news!" I am hopeful that the D97 and D90 re-openings will go well for the children, parents and teachers/staff!

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 16th, 2020 8:08 PM

@Jacek (again) Why do you despise capitalism? Clearly, it has been very good to you. You live in a $800,000 house and can afford to pay your housekeeper when she doesn't work. Able to work from home with fewer hours without a pay cut. All thanks to capitalism Jacek. I wonder if you even pay her mandated minimum wage. Are you so shortsighted that you think the rest of us live as you do in your naive bubble? I suggest you swap houses with your housekeeper for 7 days. Live in her world for a week if you really want to empathize. You probably won't though because capitalists would rather just write the check.

Jacek Lazarczyk  

Posted: July 14th, 2020 7:05 PM

@Kitty Conklin from Cincinnati, your view is that of a 19th century capitalist; shortsighted and empty of empathy. I work for a small consulting firm; they do not reduce my salary if we happen to have a slow month. This situation is unprecedented and I don't know what will happen next. So far, working fewer hours from home did not affect my pay. Consequently, I did pay my house cleaner on the days when I asked her not to come. Also, my mother was a teacher, and I can tell you that their job does not stop when the school bell rings.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: July 14th, 2020 3:44 PM

"I'm of the point of view as a public health leader in this nation, that having the schools actually closed is a greater public health threat to the children than having the schools reopen. I think really people underestimate the public health consequences of having the schools closed on the kids. I'm confident we can open these schools safely, work in partnership with the local jurisdictions." - CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield https://bongino.com/german-study-almost-no-coronavirus-spread-at-schools-that-reopened/

Nicholas Kalogeresis from Oak Park  

Posted: July 13th, 2020 9:12 PM

Given this country's dismal record of handling the virus thus far, the likelihood of a second wave, high school kids already getting infected in school sports camps here in Illinois, and the ready pervasiveness of this virus, it is pure folly to think kids, teachers, and staff will be safe inside our schools this fall. Pure wishful thinking.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: July 13th, 2020 8:40 AM

It's not that the risk is too high, it's that the extended paid vacation for the teachers is too tempting to give up easily. Any parent who has school-age kids knows that this "remote learning" farce has been a disaster.

Suzzane Summers  

Posted: July 12th, 2020 11:58 AM

Mikhail: Two entirely different situations. You seem unable (or unwilling?) to grasp the difference between the two. Inside vs outside, 30 minutes vs an hours-long day, adults being much better (generally) about keeping masks on and social distancing than school kids. I think you just have some kind of personal animosity toward the Farmers Market as evidenced by your emotional labeling of the produce as "over-priced".

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: July 12th, 2020 11:14 AM

Oh Suzzane: the fact that significant local effort was put against starting the Farmers Market (which brings farmers into covid-infested Cook County from all over Northern Illinois and surrounding communities where COVID spread has been low) shows how ridiculous Oak Parkers have become (congrats on no one tracking their disease back to the market yet, btw). But we have the will to set up a very risky farmers market with potential to spread disease, but no will to work to find safe ways to actually educate our local children in person "because the risk is too high." Got it. Overpriced produce is a priority and we will put creative thought against it, but educating our kids isn't. Community actions speak loudly, don't they? Oak Park is ridiculous.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 1:52 PM

Well played, Suzzanne Summers! You've identified his MO.

Suzzane Summers  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 1:33 PM

Mikhail, Mikhail . . . Aren't you the same guy who railed against the Farmers Market opening because you were so convinced that it would be unsafe for everyone? "I'll-advised, virus-laden" I believe you called it. And yet you think being inside a building, in classrooms, for hours ?" exactly the opposite of the OPFM situation & much more likely to lead to the spread of the virus ?" is somehow more OK? ?????

Kitty Conklin from Cincinnati  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 1:28 PM

Funny you should ask, Janet. I spent much time in the last 15 years of my career teaching adults in the workplace. And in doing so, I created reams of training guides to facilitate the learning. AND I would say that about 75% of the training I delivered was conducted on line.

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 12:40 PM

"We want to be back in the building with our kids...It is absolutely our number one priority." NO! First, they're not your kids. If they were, you'd put them first. And if in-person education was your "number one priority", you'd be doing it. Instead, you're appeasing the Teachers Union (clearly the ACTUAL first priority) and caving into their irrational safety fears. Healthcare professionals deal with COVID patients everyday without catching it by taking safety procedures. Teachers just aren't willing to do the same. (But you better not criticize the crappy education they provide online, you better not furlough them, and don't pay their pensions late!!!) Sorry, OPRFHS, your ACTUAL priorities are showing....and education of our kids is not even close to the top!!

Tom Kirchner from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 10:56 AM

Neal, uhm, this is a bit more clarifying from the AAP site: "Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.

Jane Moore from River forest  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 10:56 AM

What i do not understand is why there are only 4 classes a day, varying in length from 30 to 100 minutes. It seems like, even subtracting periods for gym and lunch, that there should be at a minimum 5 classes. And why would they not meet for the regular length? I think other area schools used the model of keeping regular class schedules meeting virtually daily. I am not sure why we need an exception. I support the need for safety of students, staff, and their families. I just do not understand why you feel the need to cut instructional time. I also know that some districts have prioritized having kids without digital access, or those with more need for in-person supervision, to be the kids at the top of the list to attend in person. This seems reasonable to me. Those who have more resources or can assume more responsibility for their learning may have to step up a bit. These are hard adjustments to consider, but if we are thoughtful and keep the dual goals of health and education in mind, we can create workable models.

Matt Downs  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 10:48 AM

For those of you advocating for a tax break please understand that what was called remote learning in the spring was in fact "crisis education". Few educators were prepared to convert their entire classroom experience to a digital platform in real time. Teachers had to create all new lessons and experiences, they provided online meetings as whole classes, small groups and one on one. The load of grading increased significantly despite the fact that the grades did not count. Do you have any idea how many emails were composed during that time period? So tell me, should teachers be further devalued while risking their lives? Should the custodial staff? Should the aides? If the work load is going to be so light then I encourage you to become a sub even for one day a week. God knows the district needs them. The district bleeds staff in a good year. Good luck finding staff if you attempt to reduce pay for those that work tirelessly for the children of Oak Park.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 10:18 AM

I can't see how remote learning (sic) cost as much as in-class learning. You don't need utilities, janitors, cafeteria, gym classes, etc. I know Harvard is charging full tuition for on-line learning, but that doesn't justify soaking the OPRF taxpayers.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 10:14 AM

Tom, from AAP.ORG - "The pandemic has reminded so many what we have long understood: that educators are invaluable in children's lives and that attending school in person offers children a wide array of health and educational benefits. For our country to truly value children, elected leaders must come together to appropriately support schools in safely returning students to the classroom and reopening schools."

Nancy Kelly-Ristau from River Forest  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 9:47 AM

For all those comments concerned about taxes and teachers pay etc.. I'm just curious. How many of you want to see your child/ student live on for the next 50 to 60 years ? The schools have been there for students for years . They have educated our students through thick and thin. This is an extreme situation that calls for parents and taxpayers to be part of the solution to keep all involved safe and healthy, not be part of the problem. Our schools teachers are working 3 times as hard e schooling then when they are in the classroom. I put 4 kids through Oprf and RF elementary and Given if they were in school now I would be following the guidelines set in place and they would be home e learning until this situation is stabilized. Please consider teachers and all employees of district 200 and 97 and 90 that they are doing all they can to educate and care for your students . It takes a village to educate our kids , so chin up and work with them and keep everyone safe and see us through this virus . Soon enough our kids will be going through this front doors again.

Tom Kirchner from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 9:07 AM

Neal, this is a good moment for you to revisit the AAP.org web site to read purposefully and completely the statement regarding the circumstances surrounding returning to schools; then refrain from blurting half-truth .

Marlene Scott from Oak Park   

Posted: July 11th, 2020 9:00 AM

The article contains one line of hope. "The superintendent said that any in-person learning would be restricted by daily temperature and symptom screenings conducted by personnel, face coverings would be mandatory and building capacity would be capped at 20 to 30 percent of students on campus at one time." Put on your thinking caps and make that happen!

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 8:40 AM

I thought everyone said we should listen to the experts. Why then are we ignoring the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to reopen the schools? I guess we only listen to the experts we agree with.

Rob Ruffulo  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 8:01 AM

If you have a weapon at home during the on line classes, what level of discipline will that be? Is that a 3? 4? How about all the staff that will lose their jobs?

Nick Polido  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 6:22 AM

Well that's the easy way to handle this....everyone gets paid and the consequence to our students will be staggering, well done.....

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: July 11th, 2020 2:17 AM

Another way to conceal the fact that they don't know what their "destracking plan" is. One year down the drain. At least there won't be fights in the lunchroom.

Lisa Saxon Reed from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 11:14 PM

No reporting of the potential impact on equity? No reporting on the parent uproar with 100% online when other large school districts are doing blended? No context setting that 2 hours/class/week is half of current instruction time? Wow.

Janet Haisman from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 11:14 PM

Have you ever been a teacher, Kitty? Your remarks seem to me to be devoid of that experience. Teaching remotely has proven to be exhausting for everyone. We need a vaccine, and we need to be patient and kind to one another as we have been so far. Let's not let this degenerate into blaming others when we have no facts on which to base those remarks.

Kitty Conklin from Cincinnati  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 10:41 PM

Barbara, if my employees are working fewer hours per day and per week, whether hourly or salaried employees, they should rightfully expect a reduction in pay. Teachers and other staff will be working fewer hours.

Barbara Kramer  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 9:42 PM

If your company is allowing employees to work from home have they lowered the price of their product or service?

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 9:38 PM

Does this mean the taxpayer will get a break on their taxes? Surely, remote teaching in cheaper than in class learning. Also, it looks like we won't have to spend anything on bricks and mortar.

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