Elgin District U-46 To Likely Start New School Year With Distance Learning

By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The 39,000 students enrolled in Illinois’ second largest school district will likely be starting their new school year learning from home.

Elgin District U-46 Supt. Tony Sanders outlined his back-to-school recommendations Monday night during the school board's meeting via Zoom.

He and his team are recommending pushing back the start of school from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24 and to begin instruction for all students via distance learning through Oct. 9. He said that, throughout the first quarter, small groups of students will be invited back to school on a limited basis to get used to new coronavirus prevention protocols.

"Rather than flipping a switch like we usually do at the beginning of a school year where all the buses roll out of the transportation department, where every classroom teacher is back in the classroom, what I see this year going as is more of a dimmer switch," he said.

Supt. Sanders said hopes to be able to have a hybrid instructional system begin Oct. 12, depending upon the state of the coronavirus pandemic and recommendations from public health officials.

After that date, Sanders recommends elementary and middle school students spend a couple of days a week learning in-school and a couple of days learning online from home.

The superintendent envisions most high school students learning online from home through the second quarter.

Supt. Sanders said the safety of students and staff is the top priority.  

"I continue to ask myself how would I deal with the loss of a student or a staff member as a result of my decision to reopen? My answer to that question is that I cannot accept the loss of life," he said.

The school board votes on the recommendations next week.

Read below Supt. Sanders' letter to families and staff in District U-46:



District-U46 Superintendent Tony Sanders' Update on Reopening SchoolsJuly 20, 2020Dear Students, Families and Staff,

School District U-46 remains committed to ensuring the safety of our students and staff as we plan for teaching and learning to resume for the 2020-21 school year. Tonight, July 20th, members of our administration presented our recent reopening schools survey results, as well as our recommended reopening plan to our Board of Education.  You can see the presentation here and watch the live Zoom meeting on our Youtube channel.

We have considered several scenarios, including some that I have previously shared with you. There are risks and benefits to each and we weighed those factors as we developed our framework for reopening. Here are the key highlights for families from tonight’s presentation:

--The proposal is considered a recommendation until next week when the Board of Education will vote on it as well as the related calendar changes.

--We have moved back the first day of school for students to Aug. 24.

--We will start the school year for all students with Distance Learning through October 9. Small groups of students will be invited back to school on a limited basis throughout the quarter.

--This Distance Learning Model will be improved from last spring with more live, interactive sessions. Students will assessed and issued grades aligned to standards. All student work will count towards the determination of the student’s performance level. All teachers and students will be using the same learning platform, called “Canvas,” for remote learning.  

--Assuming our state remains in Phase IV with the same restrictions, we will begin a hybrid model on Oct. 12 for elementary and middle school students while the majority of high school students will remain in distance learning through the second quarter. The exceptions include students who are English Language Learners, students with special needs and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), those who need additional social and emotional support, and students taking specific hands-on science lab and Career Technical Education (CTE) courses.

--Separate from the above model, we will develop a Distance Learning Academy that elementary and middle school students and families can choose to attend for the entire first semester.

--We will determine when we can resume full in-person instruction based on state guidance.

This plan allows us some flexibility and gives us time to bring smaller groups of students back to school, even in the first quarter, for critical in-person learning and so that they can be accustomed to new safety provisions such as wearing a mask during the school day, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance. The plan gives our faculty time to hone their online teaching skills and plan for a school year that will be unique to students here in U-46 and across the globe.

We know you have more questions. We will be providing consistent communication updates throughout the remainder of summer and into the school year. The school day, from beginning to end, will look different. In the hybrid model, there will be new protocols for riding school buses, using the restrooms, meal service, hallway interaction,  after-school activities, and more. Many of those details continue to be discussed and determined and we will share those procedures as soon as we have made decisions in consultation with state and local health and education bodies including our State Board of Education, Regional Offices of Education, state and local health departments.

We continue to receive updated guidance from these entities on a regular basis, and that guidance will impact our plans. This remains a challenging time for all of us but we will do our best to be agile and responsive as we work to provide high-quality instruction within a safe learning environment for our students, faculty and entire staff. I hope that you and your families are healthy and well.


Tony SandersSuperintendent