DANVILLE — Danville District 118 Superintendent Alicia Geddis said the school district is trying to provide parents a framework for a return to in-person learning for as many students as they can, but “so many things keep changing.”
That includes the school district hearing from many parents trying to register their children in the last few days, once hearing about return-to-school plans. The majority are parents who’ve not had their children enrolled in school the entire school year, with no previous information about where these students have been. Some of the parents have said they’ve been home schooling their children, who are now ready to send their children back, school officials said.
Danville District 118 school board members at their Wednesday meeting asked what will be done with these students?
Geddis said they are working with legal counsel in dealing with this delicate issue. She will report back on what the school district can do and regulate.
She emphasized they are not targeting those who really did home school.
“We’re trying to walk a fine line,” Geddis said.
Board member Darlene Halloran said having 70 percent virtual or not participating students, “bothers me very much.”
She’s concerned about what the students have missed out on, how the school district will assess them and “where do we put them and what are we going to do, if perhaps they have this big learning gap.”
Geddis said the school district can do some testing for these students, and the state board is requiring a three-year transition plan after this school year for students.
“Once we get past this, we need to start with that conversation, which starts with summer school,” Geddis said.
Geddis said they will be putting on the school district website, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education guidelines they are working under right now for students’ return to schools, including the six-feet social distance guidelines.
“We are trying to get as many of our children, who want to return, back in person. We’re trying to work the parameters to make that happen,” Geddis said.
School Board President Bill Dobbles too said “we’ll do everything possible to get our kids back to school.”
Geddis said “we’re the ones fighting for you (parents and students). We’re jumping through every hoop they’re giving us.”
Board member Johnnie Carey talked directly to parents, saying “it’s not all on the building administrator. Those surveys need to be done. If you do in fact care about your child, take a minute while you’re on your phone or your tablet. Do your survey. We need your information.”
School board members talked at the meeting about each school, how teachers are or will be wearing microphones and headsets to work with in-person and at home students, how in-person students will still be working on computers with headsets but will be able to raise their hands and get in-person assistance, one-way hallways and using one side of stairways, spaced out cafeterias, how students at North Ridge Middle School will have breakfast but take-home lunches, and how school officials still are waiting to hear about the total number of Danville High School students interested in returning to in-school learning right now.
South View Upper Elementary School Principal Lindsey Prunkard said they don’t have a perfect plan, but they’ve been hearing from students that “it’s so much better than being at home,” and they’re excited to be back. The students have the opportunity before, in between and after classes to interact with others. In-person learning started there Tuesday.
The limit of six feet social distancing, reducing it to three feet, was brought up by board members to allow high school students to go four days a week in person instead of groups only two days a week.
School board members said to contact state legislators if they want to lobby for that change.
School board member Randal Ashton said transportation also seems to be a stumbling block. Geddis said that’s why they now are staggering school start and end times.
“I think we can accommodate our students,” Ashton said.
The district’s blended learning program is the alterative right now in not being able to have all students back yet, Geddis said.
Board member Lon Henderson asked to hear if athletes and those already involved in extracurriculars are choosing to be in-person.
But Carey said the extracurricular student could be high functioning and the student may not want to come back yet.
She said she’d rather those open in-person slots be for students who need to be there, and someone needs to do that survey, with the high school survey still being open, for them to get back.
School officials reported that about 40 percent of elementary students have been in-person (with 70 percent in person at Northeast) with those numbers increasing daily; about 30 percent are in-person in fifth and sixth grade; and about 25 percent will be in person at North Ridge Middle School initially next month.
The school board Wednesday night also approved graduation and eighth grade promotion dates, with details yet to be determined; archery for Northeast; and talked about upcoming DHS teacher parking lot, DHS and Southwest boiler, Edison roof and other projects.
Geddis also told the board there was a DHS 2019 graduate who walked the New York City runway for fashion week.