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Central Illinois Schools Adopt Different Reopening Plans Amid Ongoing Pandemic

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Garden Hills Elementary School in the Champaign Unit 4 School District.

The Illinois State Board of Education is leaving it up to districts to decide how to reopen schools this fall. Some have chosen to continue remote learning, while others are bringing students back into classrooms amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

ISBE has strongly recommended that schools provide as much in-person instruction as possible. But state officials also recognize this might not be possible for every district. The state requires districts to provide five hours of instruction daily, and state officials strongly recommend that at least two-and-a-half hours of learning is provided in real-time — whether remotely or in-person. 

Illinois Newsroom surveyed districts throughout Champaign County and elsewhere in Central Illinois to produce the following summaries of school reopening plans. 

The information below is subject to change. Check district websites and social media pages for the latest updates. 

Districts going all-remote for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year:

Champaign Unit 4 Schools

  • Students will learn remotely for the first quarter of the school year. 
  • By the end of September, the district is expected to make a decision about whether they’ll continue remote learning or transition to in-person learning when the second quarter begins on Oct. 19. 
  • During remote learning, students will receive five hours of instruction daily, including a mix of live, real-time instruction from teachers and independent learning. Students in Kindergarten through fifth grade will receive two-and-a-half hours of live instruction and two-and-a-half hours of structured independent learning per day; students in grades six through 12 will receive a total of four hours of live instruction and one hour of independent learning per day. 
  • All students will be provided with a Chromebook and a charger. 
  • The district will broadcast WiFi to parking lots and public spaces outside select Unit 4 buildings, including public parks, and Unit 4 students can access WiFi at Parkland College and the University of Illinois campuses. The district is also partnering with the city of Champaign to increase internet access in high need areas, and the district is providing subsidized internet access to certain families, in addition to a limited number of hotspots. 

Urbana District 116

  • Students will learn remotely for the first quarter of the school year. 
  • During remote learning, students will receive five hours of instruction per day, including a mix of live, real-time instruction from teachers and independent learning. Elementary students will participate in live classes from 8:30 a.m. through 11 a.m., while middle school students will receive live instruction between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and high school students will receive live instruction between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. 
  • Students will be graded on their assignments, provided feedback from teachers, and given the opportunity to redo assignments to improve their mastery of the subject within a one-week time frame, unless there are extenuating circumstances. 
  • Students in need can pick up Chromebooks from the district. 
  • The district plans to deploy WiFi enabled buses in areas that are most in need of internet access. 
  • The district will also open its buildings to students who need a safe place with internet access to work during live instruction times. Substitutes and support staff will be available to provide academic and technical support during these periods. Prior to entering the building to access the computer labs, students will be screened for symptoms and required to wear masks. 

University of Illinois Lab School

  • Students will learn remotely for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year, which will include a mix of live, real-time instruction and independent learning. 
  • Teachers will provide between four-and-a-half hours and no more than six hours of total work every week for each of their classes. Physical education and elective course teachers may give students between three-and-half and six total hours of work each week.
  • The school will use a traditional A–F grading scale, but teachers are encouraged to use grades supportively rather than punitively during the 2020-21 school year. 

Mattoon CUSD 2

  • Students will learn remotely for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year, which will include a mix of live, real-time instruction and independent learning. 
  • The district plans to revisit in-person instruction plans in late September and determine if it will be safe to conduct in-person learning for the second quarter. The second quarter begins Oct. 19. Students were contacted by their teachers about how the remote learning process will work. 
  • Parents can sign up for meal deliveries through an online form.

Charleston CUSD 1

  • All students will learn remotely for the first quarter of the school year. 
  • Devices will be provided to students in need. 

Decatur School District 61

  • All students will learn remotely for the first quarter of the school year. 
  • In-person appointments and assistance will be available to students who receive special education and English-As-A-Second-Language services, as well as any student who requests assistance from teachers. 
  • The district is expected to make a decision before the end of the first quarter on Oct. 9 whether it will implement some form of in-person instruction moving forward.
  • Registered students will automatically receive delivered meals from the district; families must opt out of meal delivery if they do not want to receive them. 
  • All students will be graded. 
  • The district is offering assistance to families lacking internet access at home.
  • The district is offering childcare services through their partner, Innovation Learning, at the Children’s Museum of Illinois to registered students and staff with children who attend other school districts. 

Districts adopting a hybrid model (a mix of remote and in-person instruction):

Mahomet-Seymour Community Unit School District 3

  • The district has adopted a blended model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district has also offered an all-remote option for families. 
  • According to Mahomet-Seymour school officials, 75% of district’s students are returning to in-person learning this fall, with about 25% of students learning totally off-campus. 
  • Masks are required inside school buildings and on buses.
  • Kindergarten through fifth grade instruction will run for half-days Tuesday through Friday, with a mix of live, real-time remote instruction and independent learning occurring during the off-campus hours. All students will learn independently off-campus on Mondays. 
  • Grades six through 12 will attend school in-person two days per week for five-and-half-hours per day Tuesday through Friday, with live, real-time instruction occurring off-campus on the other two days. All students will learn independently off-campus on Mondays. 
  • The district says the goal is to return to full in-person instruction Oct. 1, if conditions allow. Families that are uncomfortable with this can select the off-campus model.
  • In the virtual off-campus option: students in grades Kindergarten through fifth grade will be assigned to a teacher’s virtual classroom with all online learners. 
  • Students in grades six through 12 who are enrolled in the off-campus option will either participate in real-time with an in-person classroom or be assigned to an all online classroom.

Rantoul City School District 137

  • The district has adopted a blended model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for families. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. More than 50 individuals are prohibited from gathering in any one space. Social distancing will be observed as much as possible. Symptom screenings and temperature checks must be completed before entering school buildings. 
  • In the blended option, students will learn in-person two days per week, with three days of at-home instruction. In-person instruction will total about 4 hours per day in the morning. 
  • Teachers will teach in-person four days per week, seeing half of their students each day. Students will stay in one classroom with the same students and teachers as much as possible. 
  • All students will participate in at-home learning activities on Mondays to allow teachers time to plan for the week, and for deep cleaning of school facilities. 
  • Some students who qualify for special education or English as a second language services will have the option to attend school in-person four days per week. 
  • Students will be able to take devices home to complete remote learning activities. 
  • All students will be graded. 
  • It is the responsibility of a student’s family to provide internet access at home. A limited number of hotspots will be available to families in need. 

Rantoul Township High School District 193

  • The district has adopted a blended model, that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for families. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. No more than 50 people will be allowed in one space at a time. Social distancing will be observed as much as possible. Students will have their temperatures taken and be screened for symptoms prior to entering school buildings.
  • In the blended option, students will attend the high school for about four-and-a-half hours two days per week for in-person instruction, while learning remotely the other three days. 
  • All students will learn remotely on Mondays. 
  • Students will take four classes per quarter for a total of eight classes per semester. 
  • Students who receive special education or English as a second language services may attend school in-person five days per week. 
  • Chromebooks will be provided to students who need them, with priority given to families who do not have enough devices at home. 
  • Students receiving breakfast on campus must take their meals to their classrooms to eat. Lunch will be provided after they are dismissed from school for the day. Families may pick up meals from the district on Mondays between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. 

Thomasboro Community Consolidated School District 130

  • The district has adopted a blended model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for families. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. Students will have their temperatures taken and will be screened for symptoms prior to entering school buildings.
  • In the blended option, students will engage in in-person instruction for three hours per day in the mornings Monday through Thursday. Students will complete the remainder of their day learning independently at home. 
  • All students will learn remotely on Fridays. 
  • Every student will have two-and-half-hours of live instruction and two-and-a-half hours of physical education, independent reading, homework and other projects per day.
  • The district will provide students in need with laptops and hotspots. 
  • Breakfast will be served at school and lunches will be sent home with students. Students who are learning online only can pick up their meals daily from the district. 
  • At this time, the school is not allowing students to switch between online learning and in-person learning and vice versa, however the chance may come at the end of the first quarter.

St. Joseph Community Consolidated School District 169

  • While the region remains in Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois plan, the district will have students attend school in-person for a half-day five days per week. 
  • Half of the students will attend school in-person in the morning, while the other half will attend school in-person in the afternoon. When students are not learning on campus, they’ll be engaged in independent learning assigned by their teacher.
  • The district will consider allowing medically fragile students, students with a higher risk of severe illness and students who live with individuals at higher risk of severe illness the ability to learn remotely. 
  • Masks are required inside school buildings and on buses. Students will have their temperatures checked, and parents will need to fill out  symptom checks every day before students enter the a school building.
  • Some students receiving special education services may attend school in-person on a full-time basis.
  •  All meals will be packaged as grab-and-go items, and delivered to the student’s classroom before dismissal each day, except for those students who are on-campus full-time. 
  • If the region or state returns to Phase 3, most students will learn remotely. 

St. Josep-Ogden Consolidated High School District 305

  • While the region remains in Phase Four of the state’s Restore Illinois plan, the district will have students attend school in-person every other day, and learn remotely the remaining days of the week. Students will be split into two groups, with in-person instruction occurring between 8:10 a.m. until 2:05 p.m. 
  • Parents can request their students learn entirely remotely. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses.
  • Every student will have a Chromebook assigned to them. Chromebooks will stay in school buildings and will not be taken home by students. If a student does not have access to technology at home, they will be able to check their Chromebooks out as needed.
  • All students will be graded.
  • To start the school year, all students will have to eat at the school, either by purchasing a lunch through the school, or by bringing their own lunch. There will be a designated area for students to put any lunches they bring to school. Students will be socially distanced, and will eat in three separate designated areas. 
  • If the state or region returns to Phase 3, most students will learn remotely. 

Prairieview-Ogden Community Consolidated School District 197

  • The district has adopted a blended model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for students in the junior high school, but not for those in the elementary school. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. Students will have their temperatures checked. 
  • Students will be split into two different schedules with students attending school in-person two days per week. On the off days, students will complete work as an extension to what is being taught in class. The buildings will be closed every Wednesday for electrostatic sanitizing. 
  • For lunch, students will have assigned seating. The district is also asking that parents keep the amount of materials transported between home and school at a minimum. 

Fisher Community Unit School District 1

  • While the region remains in Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois plan, all students and staff are on site, with the option of remote learning for some.
  • Students who enroll in an online-only option will have a different curriculum provided by a third-party online educational program. However, the district will consider allowing medically fragile students, students with a higher risk of severe illness and students who live with individuals at higher risk of severe illness the ability to learn district curriculum remotely. 
  • Students will remain with their grade level cohorts to reduce mixing grade levels within the building when possible, and students must refrain from physical contact with their peers. 
  • Masks are required inside school buildings and on buses. Students will have their temperatures checked prior to entering school buildings and before eating lunch. 
  • Seating will be arranged six feet apart whenever possible, and facing in the same direction as feasible. 
  • Meals will be individually plated or packaged as grab and go items when possible.
  • If the state or region returns to Phase 3, most students will learn remotely. 

Tolono Community Unit School District 7

  • The district will provide in-person instruction five days per week with shortened school days. 
  • Students with medical notes regarding attendance will be placed on at-home remote learning plans. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses.
  • All students that ride a bus to school will be required to show the driver a daily COVID-19 signature pass that certifies the student is COVID-19 symptom free and has had their temperature checked by a parent or guardian. The district will conduct daily temperature checks at all facilities.

Gifford Community Consolidated School District 188

  • The district has adopted a blended model, that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for students.
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. Staff will take student temperatures and screen them for symptoms. 
  • In the blended option, teachers will move between classrooms instead of students, where possible. 
  • Students in the remote learning option will need to review and work independently on assignments provided by their teachers using Google Classroom. Teachers and students will communicate daily between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. 
  • Students without internet access will be provided hard copies of the learning material. 
  • All students will be graded. 
  • Students will sit six feet apart during breakfast and lunch. 

Heritage Community Unit School District 8

  • The district has adopted a blended model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for students.
  • In the blended option, students will attend school in-person for four hours and learn remotely for one hour. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. Parents will have to self-certify that students are symptom free. 
  • Students who enroll in an online-only option will have a different curriculum provided by a third party online educational program. 
  • Students who require breakfast or lunch will must make a reservation. Students will be given their meals upon leaving school. 
  • Chromebooks will be provided to students in need of a device.

Danville School District 118

  • The district has adopted a blended model, that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote option for students in grades Kindergarten through fourth grade.
  • Pre-K students receiving special education and English As A Second Language services will attend school in-person Monday through Friday. All other pre-K students will learn remotely. 
  • Kindergarten through fourth grade students will attend school in-person for half days Monday through Friday. Teachers will teach half of their students in the morning in-person and the other half in the afternoon. Students will complete two hours of remote instruction at home. 
  • Students in grades five through 12 will learn remotely using Google Classroom. Some students receiving special education services may attend school in-person. 
  • Masks will be required in school buildings and on buses. Students will have their temperatures taken prior to entering school buildings. 
  • All students will be graded. 
  • The district will provide Chromebooks to students. 
  • Breakfast and lunches will be provided to students. 

Monticello CUSD 25

  • The district has adopted a blended mode, that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district is also providing an all-remote online option for students.
  • In-person instruction will end two hours earlier than a typical school day through the first semester of the school year. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings and on buses. Students will have their temperatures taken prior to entering school buildings, and they must self-certify they are symptom free. 
  • Lunch and breakfast will be provided to students who choose the in-person instruction option and those who choose to learn remotely.
  • Under the remote learning option, students will interact with teachers between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with Wednesdays reserved for interaction with elementary specials teachers. 
  • Students enrolled in remote learning will be assigned to classrooms. 
  • All students will be graded. 
  • Devices are available to students who do not currently have one at home. A limited number of hotspots are available for students and teachers in need. 

Schools reopening for in-person instruction with no remote learning option:

Ludlow Community Consolidated School District 142

  • Classes are being held entirely in-person five days per week between 8 a.m. and 1:50 p.m. 
  • Masks are required in school buildings. 
  • The school district serves a total of 50 students. 

Illinois Newsroom intern Jose Zepeda contributed reporting. 

Follow Lee Gaines on Twitter: @LeeVGaines

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Lee V. Gaines

Lee V. Gaines

Lee Gaines covers Education for the Illinois Newsroom. She started at Illinois Public Media in 2017 and her stories have been featured nationally on NPR. Prior to her work at IPM, Lee wrote for newspapers and magazines in Chicago and nationally. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, and the Marshall Project. She also recently completed a fellowship with the Education Writers Association. ➤ lvgaines@illinois.edu@LeeVGaines

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