This page contains important information regarding the WTHS Return to School Plan for the 2020-2021 school year. We will initiate our hybrid learning plan and schedule for students on January 19, 2021.
Return to School Overview and Plans
Over the past six months, Warren Township High School has been actively planning for multiple school reopening scenarios for this fall. The start of the school year was, and continues to be, largely dependent on the direction and guidance we receive from the governor, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Lake County Health Department (LCHD).
The overarching focus of our re-opening work is on ensuring all decisions we make are focused on student, staff, and visitor wellness, as well as maximizing educational opportunities for our students. Having students re-engage with in-person learning—particularly students with the greatest needs—to some degree was established by ISBE as an important goal for schools. WTHS is in full support of this goal. There are serious emotional and social challenges that can result from complete remote learning, and trying to get students back on campus safely is critically important. ISBE has provided school districts the flexibility to use blended or hybrid remote learning, providing for the combination of remote learning and in-person instruction. This offers us the ability to consider bringing back students with greater needs and/or creating a rotation of in-person attendance days for students. Taking this path would limit the overall number of students gathering at our campuses on a given day, while still allowing us to offer some in-person learning.
In June, 2020, the district established four Pandemic Preparedness Advisory Committees (PPAC) to identify the operational, academic, support, and district-wide aspects of a return to school. These committees were comprised of Board members, licensed and classified staff members, union leadership, administration and several district contracted service providers. Several plans have been developed to provide the ability to transition between in-person, blended and fully remote plans effectively and quickly as needed.
Throughout the summer, WTHS made an effort to review and enhance our “Remote Learning Plan” through schedules, logistics and professional development, as some degree of remote instruction was certainly likely this year. Also during the summer, a number of critical factors kept WTHS focused on trying to provide for some in-person learning this fall. These reasons include but are not limited to the mental health challenges that many students are facing when not in school, an awareness that at-risk students may not be nearly as likely to have success in a fully remote setting, and the longer the separation from school, the more difficult it may be for students and staff to return. WTHS developed “Blended Learning” plans, which allowed percentages of students to attend in-person. This also increased our capacity to manage the new enhanced health requirements, and allowed for some students to come in more frequently than others.
On July 21, WTHS made a decision to start our school year with a remote learning plan through October 2, because we were still waiting to receive guidance from the Lake County Health Department on illness management processes. The LCHD guidance, in the form of the “school toolkit” became available on August 4, 2020. We have been using this LCHD guidance and the COVID metric data to help us in our potential school status decisions.
On September 16, we made a decision to continue using the remote learning plan with the small groups approach through November 6. This was due to ongoing challenges with the LCHD illness management issues regarding single-symptom-presumed-positivity, and classroom closure and relocations. We made improvements to the protocols and expectations of our fully remote learning plan to increase the rigor, engagement and accountability by our students. These improvements went into effect on October 5. Also, we started to bring back smaller groups of students with greater needs for in-person instruction while the great majority of our students are working fully remote.
The administration and staff continued to develop alternative schedules and plans. Our new “Hybrid Learning Plan” was created to balance some of the LCHD guidance challenges and allows students to safely return for some in-person instruction on abbreviated in-person schedules. We have continued to build learning plans that provide for easy transitions for individual students, and the school at large to navigate necessary changes over time. It is important that families also have an option to be fully remote with some consideration for the success level of their students in doing so.
Please see the Return to School Plan for details and information about the processes, expectations, protocols and schedules.