Gower District News

July 23, 2020: Transitioning Back to School – Update

July 23, 2020: Transitioning Back to School – Update


The challenges we face continue. School districts are continuing to make adjustments and individual school communities are making sure their voice is represented in local Return to School plans. The same can be said in Gower. This update may not provide all of the answers to questions you may have, but it will bring us a step closer to our Smart Start to the 2020-21 school year and will represent some of the progress made since last week.  


Right to the Point/Executive Summary:

  • Our Return to School Parent Preference Survey currently indicates a 74% preference for in-person learning 
  • The Illinois State Board of Education released their updated Remote Learning and Transition Considerations just a few hours ago: Fall 2020 Learning Recommendations
    • Gower was on the Advisory Group that assisted with the development of this document 
  • Our Return to School and Reopening Plan was approved by the Board of Ed. and is aligned to IDPH/ISBE
  • Our Smart Start calendar for 2020-21 was revised and also approved unanimously by the Board of Education
    • The first nine (9) days of school are half-day In-Person Learning/half-day eLearning
    • District-wide eLearning half days each Friday (Aug. 28-Sept. 18); alternating Fridays (Sept. 25-Dec. 18)
  • Return to School, Fall 2020 dedicated webpage added to our District and School sites for parent reference
  • Gower West, Gower Middle, and District Office Administrators will host virtual Lunch & Learns for parents
    • Join Zoom Meeting: Lunch and Learn – Virtual Office Hours – District Office on July 29 from 12-1pm Mobile: 312.626.6799 US, ID: 874 2414 2574, Passcode: 788837 (watch for school updates)  

Our Return to School and Reopening Plan was approved unanimously on Tuesday night by our Board of Education. It was our first in-person meeting since March and gave the Board and guests an opportunity to walk through the plan in the new light of the data provided in the Return to School Parent Preference Survey. Does that mean the plan is etched in stone? Of course not. Everyone involved understands that public health guidance and conditions may change, but this decision gives us solid footing to continue planning for the reopening of school.


The Parent Preference Survey data continues to come in and the entire Team at Gower appreciates the response to the survey since it was launched last week. With 700 entries, or about 80% of our student body, the current preference is 74% for In-Person and 26% for eLearning. It is critical to point out that the Return to School Parent Preference Survey remains open and we encourage those who have not indicated their preference yet to do so as it helps our ongoing planning process. It is also important to keep in mind that our parents can indicate a change in preference by simply taking the survey again.


Our plan continues to be sharpened by the input we receive from across the Gower Community. It follows the State Guidance for the reopening of schools, and includes ongoing parent feedback, support and input from our staff, and adjustments based on the ISBE Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Given our alignment to the most current state guidelines, I have found that the ISBE FAQ document is one of the most helpful resources to answer many of the parent questions we receive as we continue to share details through our updates.  


In response to the number of questions we receive, the administrative team will hold Virtual Lunch & Learn Sessions weekly through the start of the school year. The first of these 1 hr sessions will begin next week with Gower West scheduled for Tuesday, the District Office on Wednesday, and Gower Middle on Thursday. Here is the meeting link for the District Office session for July 29th from 12-1 p.m. Our School Updates will include school specific meeting information. Additionally, we are adding a Return to School Plan webpage on our District and School Websites. This webpage has just been launched, but will serve as a convenient resource for all of the upcoming meeting links and associated materials. Again, we ask that you keep an eye out for ongoing communication and continue to reach out to us with your questions and concerns.   


As I stated during the Board meeting on Tuesday night, all of our parents and everyone on staff want a Return to School plan that helps keep our students safe. I believe that our Smart Start approach represents our best effort to do just that while still striking the important balance of meeting the needs of many. The following image is a simple cut out of the first two months of the 2020-21 school year as we have scheduled in our plan today. It is important to review the opening two weeks of school as it includes an entirely new type of day on our calendar: an ED‘e’ Day. On ED‘e’ days (in blue), students are dismissed according to the half-day schedule and spend the afternoon in an eLearning environment. In addition eLearning, or simply ‘e’ days (in purple), are scheduled district-wide for each Friday from Aug. 28 – Sept. 18 and then on alternating Fridays from Sept. 25 – Dec. 18. On these eLearning days, students across the district will engage in learning from a remote setting for the morning session only as our staff will be using the afternoons for ongoing planning.  

We believe that this hybrid approach of ED‘e’ days, coupled with the moderate use of district-wide eLearning days, will allow our students and families to ramp up to the restart of school in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. We also believe that this Smart Start approach allows our staff to key in on the ‘readiness metrics’ (mask wearing, attendance, behavior, arrival/dismissal, physical spacing, etc.) that will ultimately be used to make an informed decision that moves us from an ED‘e’ schedule back to a Full Day schedule. In essence, this is what we mean when we say that we are using a Smart Start schedule. We want to be able to give everyone involved the best opportunity to have a successful start to the 2020-21 school year. 


Please complete the Return to School Parent Preference Survey if you have not done so already. Also, please continue to keep an eye out for our Return to School Community Updates as well as our Gower West and Gower Middle school newsletters as we remain committed to providing you with the information you need to make the best decision for your family.  


With the Gower Greeting, 

Victor Simon III


Superintendent of Schools


Web Resources:

PDF Copy Transitioning Back to School Update – July 23, 2020