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DeKalb District 428 eyes Jan. 19 in-person return for elementary, Jan. 25 for middle, high schools

DeKALB – DeKalb administrators on Tuesday presented their latest return to learn plan, with a target date of Jan. 19 for elementary students and Jan. 25 for middle and high school students.

When the plan is official, students at all levels will return in person two days a week, one group going on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other on Thursdays and Friday. Wednesday will be an all-remote day. When one group is in the classroom, the other will be at home while the teacher teaches to both groups at the same time.

“The (elementary) kids will stay from 9 a.m. to noon virtually,” said Kim Lyle, director of curriculum for the district. “The day for the kids attending in person will be a little longer because we need to bring them into the building and then have time to end the day with them and take them out of the building.”

The original hybrid plan for the elementary students had all students remote in the morning and then alternating groups in the afternoon. While that original plan eliminated teachers having to simultaneously teach to in-person and remote students, it created logistical problems in getting children to school, officials said.

“We do think as challenging as this is going to be, it’s going to work better for our families,” Lyle said. “Bringing them in the afternoon, leaving work and trying to get them there was a real struggle. Hopefully if we’re all getting on the bus in the morning, that’s going to make lives a little bit better for families.”

Board member Jeff Hallgren asked about the logistics of teaching a group of students both in the classroom and at home at the same time.

“I’m not going to be dishonest. It’s going to be challenging,” Lyle said. “We’ve been researching what other school districts have been doing, seeing what worked as they do this model, and what’s not working.”

Lyle said the most common model she’s heard about is where teachers address the entire group but then give the kids in the classroom independent activities to free up more time to address students at home.

Lyle also said the schools will utilize as many staff members as possible to serve as classroom assistants to help teachers balance the in-person and remote students.

“It’s unbelievable what our teachers have done since the beginning of the school year,” Lyle said. “I got to witness some classes, and it’s incredible. I know they will rise to the challenge and we’re looking into what other supports we can put into place.”

Some special needs programs will go back four or five days a week, and some of those programs at the middle and high school levels will start on Jan. 19.

The district was aiming for a Nov. 30 return date, but pushed it back after the DeKalb County Health Department recommended a pause on learning starting Nov. 30 lasting until at least Jan. 19, amid the fall surge of COVID-19 cases.

Cynthia Carpenter, director of business and finance, said the plan has been discussed with the district’s bus company, First Student, and transportation is mostly figured out.

“There’s going to be some pockets that are going to be a little more challenging as it relates to some of those specialized programs,” Carpenter said. “Those are one-offs we’re going to have to deal with but they feel confident they can serve the schedule.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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