After approving the blended learning plan during their special board meeting on June 22nd, the Peoria Public School Board was back to address concerns and unanswered questions.
While there are a lot of details that are still being worked out and the plans are described as malleable, some of the concerns addressed at the Wednesday night meeting include plans for special needs students, child care options, and the structure of off campus learning days.
Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said every reopening plan has risks. PPS will follow a hybrid plan of in person and remote learning which will follow an A/B style schedule.
Students on the A schedule will attend school in person on Mondays and Wednesdays. Students on the B schedule will attend in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will alternate as in-person instruction days with A schedule students attending one Friday and B schedule students attending the following Friday.
Families will be assigned the same schedule for student continuity across schools.
"This is a pandemic, a global pandemic so we cannot expect to get everything that we want and ask for normalcy." said Dr. Kherat
For special needs students there will be three options.
Those who spend less than 40% of their time in a general classroom setting can attend all 5 days of in person classes. Those who spend more than 40% of their time in a general classroom setting will have a blended approach with a specialized virtual learning plan to fit their needs. Or they can go all virtual which will include the specialized virtual learning plan.
PPS is also working on adjustments to the bell schedule to help provide more opportunities for child care options. By changing the schedule it will allow them to have shuttles to different child care locations and still allow them to transport all the other students home.
The district is asking parents and guardians to fill out a survey to help their decision making.
They are looking at 5 1/2 hour school days.
For off-campus learning days, grades will count this time around.
The plan as it stands now is for High School students to use that day to complete assignments from their on campus day. For K-8 students the plan is to follow a consistent schedule with up to 5 hours of work. The work can be done at home or at a child care facility. Virtual support staff will be assigned to check in with students of those off campus days. Encore classes such as art and music will also be done on the off campus learning days.
But Board Member Dan Walther said more accountability is needed.
"These students have to get accomplished grades and we're still talking about 5 and a half hours a day twice a week and another 5 and a half hours on another day and I'm trying to think, I don't want our students falling behind even more than they are." said Walther
But parents and teachers who spoke at the meeting have their own concerns.
One PPS teacher and Richwoods parents said the A/B plan won't work for some kids who need that consistency to thrive.
"A lot of my kids are already far behind for a variety of reasons either they are chronic truant, they've had some behavior problems. Coming one day a week, maybe. That's a real concern." said Hedy Elliot
Another PPS teacher and parent said mental health is also a huge concern.
"And I can tell you during our time this spring when we were at home um sorry it gets me emotional talking about because she struggles." said Marie Lindahl
For those families that do not want their child attending in-person, families will have the option of choosing a 9-week full virtual learning schedule (K-8) or semester for high school. For more information on that option click here.