Superintendent's Message, 7.30.20

Full Remote Learning Informational Videos:
Aug. 4 VIDEO – Superintendent Schmidt's presentation to the Board of Education
Aug. 7 VIDEO – District administrators' answers to community members' questions

The Family's Role in the Remote Learning Environment
Papal de la Familia Durante el Aprendizaje a Distancia

Schedule: Family Remote Learning Tech Live Instruction Via Zoom (Aug. 20 & 21)


Por favor lea en español

Dear District 96 Families:

In our learning community, students’ academic and social/emotional development and student and staff health and safety are fundamental to every decision we make. In times such as these, that commitment is more important than ever.

I’m sending this communication to inform you of our decision to open the 2020-21 school year with Enhanced Full Remote Learning for most District 96 students. Students who will begin in person are those with the most significant needs (unless the family has requested full remote learning). These include:

  • Early Childhood IEP-entitled students
  • Early Childhood and Kindergarten students programmed in the Structured Learning classrooms 
  • Students programmed in the Elementary Structured classrooms
  • Students programmed in the Middle School Structured classrooms
  • Students programmed in the Guided Classrooms located at Ivy Hall
  • Students programmed in the Elementary Individualized Learning Community classrooms
  • Students programmed in the Middle School Individualized Learning Community classrooms

We have determined that beginning the school year in Full Remote Learning for all other students is necessary due to the feasibility of adhering to current public health guidelines and for the health and safety of our students and staff. We want to reiterate that the Enhanced Full Remote Learning model will be significantly different than it was in the spring during the emergency closing.  

For families who requested in-person learning, we understand that this is very difficult news. We know you considered your decision carefully before informing us of your in-person choice for your child. We know you are asking why in-person learning is no longer an option we can offer.

For months, our Reopening Task Force has worked together developing in-person learning plan variations, including hybrid options that might allow us to meet ever-changing requirements. Our commitment to offering in-person learning kept us exploring and adjusting plan after plan, only to find they could not work once the health and safety requirements layer was added and/or changing guidance made it necessary to reject them. Thus, we are extremely disappointed and heartbroken that in-person learning is not an option we can offer, but our intensive work has made us confident that Enhanced Full Remote Learning for our students is the right choice at this time.

To understand how we reached this decision, I ask you to continue reading….

Our Reopening Task Force, including Health, Teaching & Learning, and Social Distancing subcommittees, has spent months researching, measuring, surveying, and developing plans to prepare for in-person learning, either on a full or partial hybrid schedule. But current data trends in Region 9 and our more immediate area–combined with the inevitable significant disruptions to learning due to exclusion, isolation, and quarantining requirements–make quality learning in person impossible at this time.

Health Data

Lake County is located in Region 9 of the Restore Illinois Reopening Plan. Recent data trends for Region 9 are as follows:
    Positivity Threshold: 8%
    Positivity Rates-Region 9:  have risen from 3.2% to 5.3% over 10 days
    Trajectory:  If the trend continues, we will be at 8.7% by August 24.

The Health Department has provided some additional data that we have been using that they are tracking with us by zip code. 
    Positivity Threshold:  8%
    Positivity Rate 60089 (Buffalo Grove):  13.2%
    Prevalence Per 10,000 Residents:  218.6
    Positivity Rate 60047 (Long Grove):  7.3%
    Prevalence Per 10,000 Residents:  142.6

These trends significantly diminish our level of confidence regarding opening safely and being able to remain open.

Health and Safety Protocols

We have been advised that we will have positive cases when returning to in-person learning. The updated Illinois Department of Public Health Guidance stipulates that schools must adhere to the following procedures when symptoms are exhibited and cases emerge.
Step 1:
You must send home or deny entry if ANY one of the following symptoms are present:

    Fever (100.4 or higher)
    Muscle or body aches
    Shortness of breath
    Sore throat
    Congestion or runny nose
    New loss of sense of taste or smell
    Abdominal pain

Step 2:
    If the person has been clinically evaluated by a healthcare provider?...

Tested positive = stay at home at least 10 days from onset of symptoms AND for 24 hours with no fever (without fever-reducing medication) AND improvement of other symptoms (whichever is longer)
Alternate Diagnosis: Follow providers' directions–physician's note needed for re-entry

If any of the symptoms are present, must stay at home for 10 days from onset AND 24 hours with no fever (whichever is longer). Testing for COVID is recommended.

It should be noted that contact tracing through the Lake County Health Department is an extensive process and that we have been informed that the average turnaround time for results is currently 7 days.

Contact Tracing / Close Contact

“Close contact” is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes cumulatively starting  from 2 days before the illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. 

So when we say that the protocols will result in significant and consistent disruption to learning, these are the required protocols that we are referring to. 

Workforce Challenges

Faculty and staff are entitled to various leaves of absence, including those for medical and childcare reasons. In addition, they can take a one-year unpaid leave of absence. Our current reality is that 52 percent of our teachers are unable to teach in person due to their own or a family member’s medical condition or because their need to care for their own children whose schools have announced a full remote learning decision has left them with few options. Another reality is that the pool of substitute teachers who serve Districts 102 and 103 as well as District 96 is insufficient to serve even one school district and is shrinking daily. In order to provide consistency of learning, we would need a substitute pool of 120-130 people, even in a hybrid model. We are down to fewer than 40 who are willing to substitute in person.

Likewise, our need to socially distance students and faculty to no less than 6 feet of separation at all times (including routine movement within a classroom) creates the need for many extremely small sections of in-person learners. In turn, this significantly increases the number of full remote sections to numbers that are untenable. 

Moving Forward

We must look ahead, as well….  Because our hope and our intent is to return to full in-person learning as soon as circumstances permit, the number of sections and staff assignments we begin the 2020-21 school year with must reflect our plan to return to school. We must be able to transition to in-person learning without causing significant disruptions to teacher assignments.

We will be monitoring the data with leaders at the Lake County Health Department regularly in order to determine when it is appropriate and safe to begin a phase in of in-person learning.

First data review:  October 5
Ongoing data reviews:  Every 4–6 weeks
Phase in of in-person learning will begin with our youngest learners.

District 96 is committed to supporting our families in the following ways:

  • Monitoring social emotional needs to identify students in need of additional services
  • Developing a safe and supervised space for students to engage in remote learning for families in dire need of support
  • Continuous monitoring of the engagement levels of students
  • Developing interventions for students whose engagement levels are concerning
  • Continuing meal distribution and food pantry support for those in need
  • Availability of  technology help desk support
  • Teacher “office hours” to support parents and students

As these supports are finalized, we will share the information with you.

Answering Your Questions

Because I want you to have as full an understanding as possible about how we came to this decision and what it will look like for your students, we have created three resources for additional information. The first is an FAQ – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSThe second is rationale for opening remotely that will be presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening, Aug. 4. We will record that presentation and will share a link to it with the community in a Superintendent’s Message to be sent on Aug. 5. The third is a recorded presentation that will be available on or around Aug. 7 in which District administrators will answer to the best of their ability questions that you choose to provide beforehand via a link specifically for this purpose included in the August 5 email. Please submit your questions after hearing the presentation on August 5 and use the specific link provided in the Aug. 5 email to submit questions not yet answered by information previously shared.


• Hear the Rationale for the Decision to Open in Enhanced Full Remote Learning – available Wed., Aug. 5, via a link in a Superintendent Message. This information will be recorded as it is presented to the Board of Education at their regular meeting the evening before. After listening to that presentation, please use the link specifically provided for this purpose in the Aug. 5 communication to submit your questions.

• Hear a recorded presentation with District 96 Administrators – available on or around Aug. 7. Listen as District administrators answer the questions you submit after hearing the information shared on Aug. 5. (To keep this presentation length manageable, the general themes of questions received will be answered.)

With the Enhanced Full Remote Learning decision made, our full focus is on providing you with the information you need to prepare for school to start with a half day on Aug. 24.

Starting the school year

Kindergarten will be a half day throughout the 2020-21 school year. Assignments to the AM or PM session will be communicated by email to parents of registered kindergartners on August 3. As has been the District’s practice, AM/PM assignments will be based geographically for bus transportation efficiency when in-person learning resumes. 

Parents of kindergartners and new students will receive information by email by Aug. 7 about our iPad distribution plan and virtual technology orientation.

All students will have a virtual Meet the Teacher opportunity during the week of Aug. 17.

All students will receive their teacher assignments/schedules on Aug. 12.

What to expect when the school year is underway

Our school year will begin on Mon., Aug. 24, and will be a half day.

Regular school-day hours will be:
AM Kindergarten and Early Childhood: 8:30–11 AM
PM Kindergarten and Early Childhood: 12:30–3 PM
Grades 1–5: 8:30 AM–3 PM
Grades 6–8: 7:45 AM–2:30 PM

Attendance in all Full Remote classes will be taken daily.

Students will be held accountable for completing assignments and assessments and report cards will be provided at the end of each trimester. (As mandated by the State of Illinois, attendance and grade reporting waivers that were applied in the spring are no longer in effect.)

The District will continue to provide meal distribution for those families experiencing financial challenge.

The District will provide a safe and secure place for daily learning for registered students for families in dire need. Qualifying information and details about the process to apply will be shared in early August.

In closing, these have been the most challenging and heartbreaking months of my educational career and that can be said for the incredible leadership team in District 96, as well. Some of you may feel relieved, some may feel frustrated, and others angry. We feel the same. 

Our commitment in District 96 is to every child, every school, every day. The pandemic has changed temporarily where our students will be learning, but it has not and will not diminish our determination to engage them academically and socially/emotionally and help them achieve measurable growth in the 2020-21 school year. We know there will be challenges and we will work through them together. It is my hope and belief that in this time we can distinguish ourselves as a collaborative community, interacting with one another respectfully with graciousness and patience and modeling the resilience we seek to nurture in our students. That approach to the days ahead will surely benefit and resonate with our students for a lifetime.

Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools