Board Meeting Focuses on Updates on Return to Learn Plan

Students+wait+in+line+near+the+main+office+of+Kaneland+High+School+for+parking+passes.+Monday%27s+board+meeting+focused+on+updating+the+details+on+what+is+sure+to+be+a+different+school+year+for+everyone.

Photo by Jenna Lin

Students wait in line near the main office of Kaneland High School for parking passes. Monday’s board meeting focused on updating the details on what is sure to be a different school year for everyone.

Kaneland School Board members Meg Junk, Ryan Kerry, Aaron Lawler, Gale Pavlak and Shana Sparber held a socially distanced meeting in the Harter Middle School cafeteria on Monday, July 27, to further discuss Kaneland’s Return to Learn plan for this fall. Two members of the Board, Pedro Rivas and Teresa Witt, were not in attendance. The first topic of discussion was the public’s input on how Kaneland plans to return to face-to-face learning. The district’s plan started with hybrid days, separating students by last name to come in either Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday, along with alternating Wednesdays between in-person and remote learning. Since that initial decision, the district has also agreed to allow 100% remote learning by family choice in addition to the originally agreed upon plan to allow remote learning for students with medical exemptions. Community member Shannon Coady voiced her concern as a parent regarding the lack of time given to decide between the hybrid option and full remote learning.

“I came tonight to voice my concern that, as parents, we had to have our decision made by this morning. It seems to me that there are still a lot of details to be hashed out. I feel it’s a little unfair that we’re expected to make a decision when we don’t have all the details and that they could still be changing,” Coady said.

The deadline to make this decision has now been moved to Friday, July 31. District administrators then moved onto their presentation to update the details of the Return to Learn plan, while answering questions raised at the last meeting in addition to going over new information regarding the full remote option. The presentation began with Director of Educational Services (6-12) Patrick Raleigh and Director of Educational Services (K-5) Dr. Sarah Mumm explaining the outline of the various learning options.

“We have tried to refine information based on the questions we’ve got, or even based on the number of students opting to a certain model. We really had to make some shifts in the practices,” Mumm said.

Raleigh and Mumm went on to explain the three types of learning for the fall, which include the A/B hybrid model and two fully remote options (one by family choice and one for students with medical exemptions from a physician until they are cleared). The difference between the remote options is that family choice is for the student’s full semester or trimester (elementary schools are on trimesters), while the medical exemption option is dependent upon the student’s ability to return to school. Addressing Coady’s earlier concern, Dr. Mumm explained why the district needed an answer so soon after sending the information out.

“In order to plan the staffing appropriately, we need to know about how many students are in each one of these models. We also need to look at the experiences and resources students have and divide them up, which limits access. If a student is fully remote, some resources may need to be purchased. We have to plan ahead, purchase those materials and get prepared. A lot of families want to know who their teachers are, and we can’t do rosters until we know where each student’s position is,” Mumm said.

Regardless of the final decision that each family makes, their students will have different experiences. The presentation detailed various possible learning scenarios this fall, ranging from live face-to-face instruction with a teacher to lessons taught over an online platform with independent application opportunities.

In addition to the focus on learning options, Board members and administrators discussed updates to cleaning procedures. Kaneland has partnered with ABM, a cleaning company. Each district school will have more custodians to ensure cleanliness of the buildings. Custodial staff and teachers will also have masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer, plexiglass and cleaning solution available to them in accordance with PPE guidelines.

“Most [ABM] custodians will be working in the evenings. They will have specialized training in disinfecting, using electrostatic sprayers to clean every classroom, and they will be using hospital-grade products. The regular custodians will still be cleaning the building. You can’t disinfect an area that hasn’t been cleaned,” Pavlak said.

Director of Human Resources Dr. Christopher Adkins then provided a staffing update. The slide he discussed showed the current number of students across the district needing or wanting to utilize the remote option.

“We have 593 students that have asked for remote learning, whether it is for medical reasons or for the optional choice. We have 22 staff as of today that will need remote work due to medical reasons,” Adkins said.

The next slide included the dollar amount allocated for extra staff members that the district may hire to fulfill additional staffing needs, which leads to a total estimated budget of $664,000.

“Based on those students that have shared with us they would like to stay home, we are planning on needing six temporary teachers. It’s a one-year contract. Of course, if there are any positions available next school year and they are available, that can always be discussed. We’d need nine long term substitutes and five long term paraprofessional substitutes,” Adkins said.

The last thing the Board members and district administration discussed was their approach to illness within the district. On the chart they showed, it stated that if an individual tested positive for COVID-19, they need to be quarantined for 14 days beginning at the onset of their symptoms. If an individual tested positive for COVID-19 and had no symptoms, they would also need to quarantine for 14 days, starting the day they got tested. 

Members of the Board pointed out multiple times throughout the meeting that the district’s current plan could always change, and they are preparing for a range of possibilities.