GOWER

WEST SCHOOL

Gower West News

June 25, 2020: Transitioning Back to School – Update

The long-anticipated Part 3 Joint Guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health referenced in our Community Newsletter last week was released on June 23rd. This 63 page document was released to school districts at the same time as the general public. It provides guidelines for reopening under Phase 4 in the Restore Illinois Plan and is clear that the decisions and details are left to local school districts to decide. It is important to acknowledge that each school district is facing the challenge of developing a reopening plan that best fits their unique circumstance and best serves their respective school communities.

 

Since its release, Gower’s Transition to In-Person Instruction Committee has been working to determine what this means for our school district. Over the last 48 hours, we have participated in follow-up webinars, held a number of in-person and remote meetings, and perhaps most importantly, built in the time to collaborate with our high school district as well as the other six neighboring Pre-K-8 school districts to find ways to team up where it makes sense and strengthen our individual plans by sharing resources and working together. In other words, you can rest assured that we have been doing our job!  

 

We know how important schooling is and we are looking forward to having our students back in our buildings. We recognize how much our Community has invested in our schools and in our success and we are committed to an effective reopening and a successful 2020-21 school year. Our Board of Education has been paying close attention to our work, continues to receive updates around our plan, and plays an active role in developing a reopening plan that meets our district motto, Children at their Best!    

 

The new state guidelines make it clear that in-person instruction is allowed in Phase 4 when following specific guidelines. This does not mean that the return to school will look the same as it did prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Appropriate social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitation measures, and other accommodations will be necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff, and their families. Phase 4 guidelines are listed below with our current status/likely approach provided for each of the requirements: 

 

 

  • Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;

 

      • We are planning to provide two (2) cloth masks to each student and staff member to help meet the requirement. Parents are encouraged to make provisions for additional face coverings as they see fit.
      • Face shields and other accommodations may be used to meet the face covering requirement. 
      • A Parent Tips and Recommendations document from our Committee is forthcoming.

 

  • Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space; 

 

      • This requirement will result in changes to our cafeteria/lunch as well as other large-gatherings.
      • We will need to limit the number of students on our buses to 48 to accommodate space for a driver and another adult (e.g. aide, administrator, etc.) and meet this requirement
      • Parents are encouraged to transport their child(ren) to and from school each day when possible 
      • A Transportation Needs and Request Survey from our Committee is forthcoming. 

 

  • Require social distancing be observed, as much as possible; 

 

      • The layout of furniture in each of our classrooms is being rearranged to meet this requirement.
      • Social distancing reminders and markings will be used in common spaces, hallways, etc.
      • A Parent Tips and Recommendations document from our Committee is forthcoming.

 

  • Require that schools conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings;

 

      • We are working to require parent and employee self-certification (signed document) and only conduct on-site screenings upon request or as needed based on presentation of symptoms.

 

  • Require an increase in school-wide cleaning and disinfection.

 

    • This requirement has been met through a change in cleaning schedules and procedures and will continue throughout the 2020-21 school year. 

 

We will continue to prepare for the reopening of school for Phase 4 In-Person instruction under the state guidelines provided in a way that best meets the needs of our school community.  We will continue to pay close attention to the state guidelines and public health data and work with our colleagues and partners at the regional and state level to make adjustments to our plan as needed. And perhaps of most importance, we will continue to communicate with our staff, parents and community as we move forward; using our Community Update to share more details regarding the return to school as we get closer to our first day of school – scheduled for Friday, August 21, 2020. 

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me or either of our school offices if you have any specific questions or concerns. I thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue further into uncharted territory and thank you for your support of our children and our schools.

 

On behalf of the Gower Transition to In-Person Committee and with the new Gower Greeting,

Victor Simon III

vsimon@gower62.com 

Superintendent of Schools

 

Web Resources:

PDF: June 25, 2020: Transitioning Back to School Update – June 25, 2020