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Dixon School Board approves 2-day blended learning for K-5 students; school starts Aug. 31

Washington School kindergarten teacher Carrie Ramirez gets a round of hugs from her students in October following her Dixon Amazing Teacher award. Things will be looking a lot different in Ramirez's classroom on Aug. 31, when classes resume with COVID-19 restrictions in place. The Dixon School Board Wednesday approved a 2-day in-person learning plan for its K-5 students. The on-site learning option has students in school either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., while off-site days will be for online learning, and Fridays will be remote learning for all students.
Washington School kindergarten teacher Carrie Ramirez gets a round of hugs from her students in October following her Dixon Amazing Teacher award. Things will be looking a lot different in Ramirez's classroom on Aug. 31, when classes resume with COVID-19 restrictions in place. The Dixon School Board Wednesday approved a 2-day in-person learning plan for its K-5 students. The on-site learning option has students in school either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., while off-site days will be for online learning, and Fridays will be remote learning for all students.

DIXON – The Dixon School Board approved a 2-day in-person learning plan for K-5 students Wednesday, wrapping up its reopening plans for all the schools.

Board members approved plans for middle- and high-schoolers at a special meeting Friday, giving parents two options of either full remote learning or blended learning with 2-day in-person instruction.

During the last few weeks, some board members were concerned that 2 days wasn't enough for in-person learning, especially for K-5 students, and they needed to try for 4 days. The Dixon Education Association teachers union and the district leadership team endorsed the 2-day option, citing health, safety and logistical concerns about 4 days.

There was a consensus during the last meeting to start with 2 days following teacher concerns and reevaluate after 9 weeks, but board member Brad Sibley argued Wednesday that it wasn't much of a consensus and they need to try to reevaluate sooner.

"I still think the majority of the board thinks this is the wrong decision, but we're making it to make a compromise, and it drives me crazy that I don't think it's what's best for our community," Sibley said.

He said he was irritated by the lack of flexibility with board President Linda Wegner as well as administrators on having more in-person days.

Wegner's stance has been to be slow and cautious with in-person learning rather than rushing in with too many students and having to shut down early in the event of an outbreak.

It's a temporary plan, metrics are in place, and they're going to assess as they go, Wegner said.

Board member Rachel Cocar said they need to be careful and cautious as well as be mindful of those at risk such as teachers who care for elderly parents, people with compromised immune systems, and children with health issues.

"I realize there are lots of people who will get sick and be fine, and there are lots of children who may get sick and be fine, but every person has very different circumstances and we don't know what those are," Cocar said.

There shouldn't be an us-versus-them mentality on the board, she added. "We are in this together."

The board approved the plan with board member JR Humphrey providing the only dissenting vote.

A revised school calendar also was approved, with school slated to start Aug. 31.

The on-site learning option has students in school 2 days a week, either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students will be grouped alphabetically by last names. Classrooms will be limited to 50% capacity – about a dozen students – with social distancing.

Off-site days will be for online learning, and Fridays will be remote learning for all students.

Those choosing full remote learning still will have schedules from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., and students will need to check in every day online for attendance. It will be a mix of live and taped instruction.

Masks will be required for all students and staff as well as temperature checks, parents of students doing in-person learning will need to fill out coronavirus screening forms that ask about symptoms, and facilities will be regularly cleaned and sanitized.

There are also protocols for if a teacher or student is infected with COVID-19, and the district is working with the Lee County Health Department.

The next steps will be to finalize plans once registration is complete including coordinating with Illinois Central School Bus for transportation as well as their food service provider, Superintendent Margo Empen said.

Go to dps170.org for more information on the reopening plans.

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