Superintendent's Message, 6.2.20

Dear District 96 Families,

Our families are coping with unprecedented challenges related to the pandemic, stay-at-home restrictions, and economic uncertainty. And as unrest sweeps our country, we extend our deepest sympathy to the family of George Floyd and to our nation in pain. School District 96 remains focused on equity and inclusion and these priorities will be reflected in our goals once again as we work to build bridges and improve. We are committed to ensuring that our students see themselves in their learning – every child, every school, every day. We are committed to listening to and learning from one another. We know that our diversity is our greatest strength.

As we look ahead together, I want to share some information with you regarding work being done in order to be best prepared for the 2020-21 school year. The information that I am sharing is not unique to District 96, but is information that our Area 125 Consortium and schools across the state are sharing and collaborating around.

In anticipation of next year’s reopening, we are poring over content and planning and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and other state plans and professional association guidelines for returning to school, like those from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET). The guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education on return to school is expected within the next week or so. Once released, we will apply its contents to our local work.


The quality of learning for students during this crisis has not been equal to in-person learning. We know this. We are working to make sure that we use the reflective observation and input of our teachers, administrators, and community to improve our in-person schooling, our health focus, and our Remote/E-learning 2.0 to focus on the best and most impactful learning and teaching. I am deeply grateful to our teachers, support staff, administrators, and parents for the herculean efforts demonstrated during this public health crisis that caused a complete and total change to education.

We are also conscious of the fact that there could be further interruptions experienced during the 2020-21 school year due to a resurgence of COVID-19. We need your feedback regarding your experience this spring so that we can ensure we have a robust plan in place if and when we need it. Please complete and submit the survey linked below by Wed., June 10.

Please complete a survey for EACH student you have in District 96.

School Year 2020-21

Our Back-to-School planning is focused on keeping student learning at the forefront in a safe, healthy, and robust way. As you may be aware, schools may not reopen until Phase 4–and then with significant parameters in place, such as the taking of temperatures, wearing of masks, and social distancing at all times. As you can imagine, this presents significant challenges for schools with hundreds and hundreds of people reporting each day. And there is also transportation to consider, and how we get students to school with these parameters in place.

We are aware of a subset of our community who may refuse to send their children to school for a variety of reasons and, likewise, are also aware of others already requesting that school open as “normal,” with no restrictions. Individuals and families have unique perspectives and circumstances that contribute to how they feel about the future.

Generally, we are anticipating three potential scenarios as we return to school:

  • Remote Learning 2.0 - Taking what worked in the crisis, what we learned in the crisis, and input from surveys that are being sent and analyzed to refine and improve Remote Learning. This scenario would mean that either we are still in Phase 3 of the Illinois Plan OR the required social distancing and health protocols make an in-person reopening logistically impossible or unsafe.
  • Hybrid or Blended Approach - This is a combination of some in-person schooling and some Remote Learning 2.0.  This would be implemented in order to be able to institute the safety and health requirements mentioned above feasibly.
  • In-Person Teaching and Learning - It’s likely that this would be implemented with health and social distancing protocols in place, in accordance with state and CDC guidelines.

What, exactly, each of these potential scenarios would look like is not yet known at this time. A task force has been developed as a way to prepare for any scenario.

KCSD96 Reopening Task Force

In order to create a structure within which to plan for each potential scenario, District 96 launched a Reopening Task Force earlier in May. This Task Force is made up of the three subcommittees identified below.

Health - This subcommittee is tasked with designing and implementing all health, hygiene, and cleaning protocols that may be required in any scenario. This includes ensuring we have all of the supplies and equipment needed to implement identified protocols. Protocols may include the wearing of masks, the monitoring of adult and student temperatures, the implementation of procedures for those who become ill during the school day, etc.

Teaching and Learning - This subcommittee is tasked with designing what teaching for adults and learning for students looks like in any required scenario. This includes a more robust remote learning (2.0), a blended model, and in-person learning, taking into consideration priorities we want to readdress from the spring. Models being designed across the country will be used to help guide this work.

Social Distancing - This subcommittee is tasked with taking each and every scenario and applying social distancing protocols and practices that may be required. This includes where and how lunch occurs, transitions and travel during the school day, regular school day routines, arrival and dismissal procedures, etc.
Some questions we are all working through in order to prepare for School Year 2020-21:

  • As information continues to evolve, is it reasonable for our schools to be safely open as normal? What are health and safety protocols that need to be instituted?
  • Can the required health and safety protocols be implemented when 100% of our staff and students are in attendance?
  • What modifications should be made to safely open our schools, and is it possible for our schools to make those modifications? We don’t want to make false promises. We are eager to open, but safety and health are high priorities and must be considered.
  • How should we modify our “return to work/school” protocols?
  • What do we do with/for students or staff who are not safe in returning to school?
  • How will custodial protocols change to meet current best practice?
  • If the State and opening guidelines do not allow us to begin the school year in person, what does returning to school actually look like in a more robust Remote Learning model?

In closing, I want you to know that we are deeply planning for any and all scenarios that we may face. We will likely send out an additional survey related to these potential scenarios later in June and I will provide you an update on this work at the end of the month, with another update to follow mid-July.

Best regards,
– Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools