Regional school superintendents navigate reopening plans

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(The Center Square) – As Illinois school districts prepare to begin the school year, regional superintendents of schools are trying to help school districts and families with the ever-changing education landscape as the pandemic continues.

Several regional superintendents partnered with Illinois State University this summer to develop an ongoing COVID-19 Toolkit, which helps schools identify their main challenges during the public health crisis and execute strategic plans to address learning challenges for students.

Mark Klaisner, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, said a lot of input from all over Illinois went into the toolkit.

“The toolkit is updated on a regular basis to try to provide the best examples or share learning’s from all over the state as we try to open school and get started on a positive note,” he said.

Klaisner said he is proud of how regional superintendents have come together to tackle obstacles created by the pandemic, as the main responsibilities of a superintendent are being tested during these times.

“One is compliance, the second is professional learning, and the third is at-risk students, and if those are our three statutory responsibilities, all three of those are heavily in play right now,” Klaisner said.

Many schools have changed plans from a mixture of in-class and remote learning to all remote. Bloomington-Normal schools made a late change, as did Peoria schools. Peoria Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said a rise in coronavirus cases in the Peoria area could not be ignored.

“The decision was made as a result of that for the safety of all reluctantly to select the distance learning model,” Desmoulin-Kherat said. 

A survey by the Illinois State Board of Education found about 150 of the more than 850 school districts in state plan to offer only remote learning this fall. The survey found most of the districts (319 of the more than 600 that responded to the survey) plan to offer a blended model. Those districts cover more than 525,000 students. About 200 districts serving 153,000 students will be doing in-person instruction. About 150 districts serving about 921,000 students will offer only remote instruction when classes begin for the semester.

Klaisner said that may be best for many school districts around the state, depending on the circumstances and local situation.

“How can we keep kids and families and teachers safe, and right now in most places that I know of, districts are realizing that the only way they can really do that and assure that they are being safe is through a version of remote learning,” Klaisner said.

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August 13, 2020 at 04:15PM

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