Students from PreK through 12th grade in Decatur Public Schools will participate in virtual learning only for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year. The first day for student instruction will also be pushed back to Monday, August 17, 2020.
“This is certainly not the start to the 2020 school year that we would have hoped for, but we know that it’s ultimately the best decision we can make for our students, staff, and all our DPS families to prioritize their health and safety,” said Dr. Paul Fregeau, Superintendent of Decatur Public Schools. “From teachers and principals to parents and students, I want to thank everyone involved in the planning process. It took a lot of time, effort, difficult conversations, and many changes along the way, but I think starting the year with virtual learning only is the best decision possible for our community.”
The planning team has been meeting since June, working to develop the fall learning plan. That team included leadership from each of the seven unions representing DPS employees, as well as administrators and principals. The team also sought input and feedback from parents and students. The learning plan also evolved throughout the planning process, as the team reviewed recommendations from medical experts and the overall health climate in our community.
“The planning team really tried to take all stakeholders’ input into account as we designed our return to learn plan,” said Chrissy Petitt, President of the Decatur Education Association, the union which represents DPS teachers. “The collaboration within the planning team was extremely valuable, even when the conversations were difficult. We listened to our families, our employees, and our students. We look forward to working with our students and families in order to provide the best instruction possible.”
While all students will receive virtual instruction, in-person appointments and assistance will be available for students with IEPs, English learners, and students who specifically request in-person assistance from their teachers.
DPS is pushing the first day for student instruction back to Monday, August 17, 2020, to allow more time for teachers to prepare for virtual learning. August 12, 13, and 14 will be designated as Remote Learning Planning Days for teachers and staff to ensure they’re ready for students to begin virtual learning on August 17. DPS will also offer assistance on these days for families who need to get internet access in their homes or iPads updated so that students are prepared for virtual learning.
At this time, DPS has designated the first quarter of the school year as virtual learning only. As we approach the end of the first quarter on October 9, district leaders will consult with health experts to determine if a return to some form of in-person instruction is advisable. We know that the COVID-19 positivity rate in our region changes daily, so planning for the future of instruction for DPS students must remain fluid as well.
Return to Learn Webpage
The Decatur Public Schools Return to Learn Virtual Learning Plan is now posted on the DPS website at www.dps61.org/returntolearn. This webpage will be the one source parents and families can go for updates and information about virtual learning, frequently asked questions, upcoming events, and more. Many details of the plan are still being determined with the District’s collective bargaining units, so we ask for patience and understanding as we continue to work through these details for the Fall.
Now, more than ever, it’s essential that DPS families get students registered for the 2020-21 school year. Families can register returning students by logging into Skyward Family Access through the DPS website at www.dps61.org. Families who need assistance with the online registration portal should reach out directly to their student’s school. Kindergarteners and students who are new to DPS can register in-person on July 27 and 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the school the student will attend (excluding Franklin Elementary School; new student registration will be hosted at Student Services due to construction at the school building).
Internet Access Assistance
In order to address the digital divide that impacts many families, DPS is offering assistance to ensure those families have internet access. Families who need assistance getting internet access in their homes to support students in virtual learning should reach out to their student’s school.
Student Attendance and Grading
Even though students will be learning virtually from home, they will still be required to check in with teachers for daily attendance. Additionally, in a shift from the Spring 2020 remote learning, grading for the 2020-21 school year returns to normal expectations. Students will receive grades for their classwork during virtual learning.
Virtual Learning Support for Families
We know DPS families will have many questions about the 2020 Return to Learn plan and the start of virtual learning. On Wednesday, July 29, at 6:00 p.m., DPS leaders will host a virtual parent Q&A webinar. Register now for this virtual question and answer session atwww.dps61.org/julyparentmeeting. The webinar will also be live streamed on the DPS Facebook page for those who would like to listen in.
We also know there can be a learning curve for parents and guardians to support students in virtual learning. DPS experts are planning a series of “professional development” virtual webinars, aimed specifically at ensuring students are set up for success in virtual learning. These parent professional development sessions will be held in early August. Look for more information on these sessions to be posted at www.dps61.org/returntolearn and on the DPS Facebook page.
Innovation Learning will provide full-day services for DPS students and will be extended to DPS staff with children who attend other school districts. The location for full-day Innovation Learning services will be at the Children’s Museum of Illinois in Decatur. Interested families can register now for just a $5 enrollment fee at www.innovationlearning.com. Additionally, other community organizations may offer full-day services for DPS students and students of DPS staff.