Letter to Families
Dear River Bend Families,
We greatly appreciate the response rates to the survey sent last week. To keep families updated, I wanted to send a follow-up note. Overall, about 88% of the families said they would be sending their children back. We are attempting to do our best to support all families. 12% still have concerns and we respect those concerns as well. If you follow national trends, when we opened up our states COVID cases continued to increase. Locally, we have seen an increase of cases in Whiteside County and especially within our school district boundaries. Communities within our school district currently have 74 of the 302 positive cases in Whiteside County. This represents 25% of the cases in Whiteside County, our school district boundaries represent about 10% of Whiteside County. The school district has had two staff members exposed to positive cases and needed to quarantine for 10 to 24 days per Whiteside County protocols.
Even though 88% of families stated they prefer their child(ren) to return to onsite learning, it is important to note that our community has seen a large increase in the number positive COVID cases. The new cases are increasing with our high school aged persons. If cases continue to rise, full remote learning may be necessary at all grade levels to ensure student, staff, and community safety. We know that families and students want to return to school but our administrative team and Board of Education believe we need to address this local outbreak proactively. At the board meeting last night the administrative team recommended modifications to the current return to learn plan. The new updated plan will include extension of Anchor/Boat days for PK-8 until further notice. Fulton High school will start the year remotely with OPTIONAL building times for students to receive 1:1 instructional support. More details of that instructional support will be developed by the HS staff and sent to HS students and parents.
Updated building plans will be shared as soon as they are available. I have included some information that will provide brief answers to the questions from the surveys.
We will provide academic learning opportunities for both on-site and remote learning.
Families will have the opportunity to select on-site or remote options through the following link https://forms.gle/
qNLLJdZNNf3kUWxg6 If family medical circumstances change the district will address those individual family needs.
With the increase in COVID cases in our region, a full remote learning format MAY need to be adopted. ISBE and/or the governor may scale the State of Illinois back into phase 2 or 3 which would mean remote learning for all.
When positive COVID cases decrease we hope to move to an on-site model for all students.
Lunch will be provided for both on-site and remote learning. Details for remote learning students to pick up lunch will be provided as we get closer to school beginning.
Updates for IHSA athletics will be provided by the athletic director. IHSA allowed activities will proceed in small groups during the remote learning time period.
Masks: As a reminder, the school district will provide 1 mask to each student. I am sure many families will purchase masks for their own children. As a reminder, masks need to be snug and cover both the nose and mouth. The board approved a face covering policy at last night’s meeting. If not wearing a mask is your family's choice, arrangements will need to be made for remote learning.
River Bend will continue to face challenges and will adjust plans accordingly as we do our best to serve our wonderful communities. The following provides some insight into the many concerns facing our decisions.
As you know, a Return to Learn team has worked throughout the summer to figure out the best ways to educate our students which included the development of a Full Remote E-Learning Model and a full return. We developed our Hybrid A/B Model based on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Part 3 Guidance that was released on June 23, 2020. All school districts in Illinois are required to adhere to the guidelines set forth by ISBE and IDHP. In response to the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation, the state has made changes to the guidance since its release in June. Since that time, more guidance has been shared and as a result, the District has had to adjust our plan for the upcoming school year.
To operate in-person instruction, the District must: limit the number of people in one space; ensure compliance with social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible; require symptom screenings and temperature checks or self-certification on a daily basis; ensure appropriate hygienic practices; and require the use of appropriate personal protective equipment by students, staff, and visitors. As we have continued to review operations, we identified a number of areas where the impact from complying with these requirements with fidelity will require changes that will be challenging.
Cohorting of Students (PK-8 students are in cohort groups) - One strategy for minimizing transmission of the coronavirus is to maintain students in fixed cohorts. Our educational programs at all levels benefit from students moving throughout the day and interacting with different groups.
Social Distancing - When we examined the spaces within our buildings, we determined that we are able to implement the six-foot social distancing requirement throughout the school day with modifications to our attendance patterns or class structure. Guidance on social distancing continues to lack clarity and specificity from both ISBE and IDPH.
Response to Symptoms - Schools must send home or deny entry of a student or staff member if ANY of the ten COVID-19 symptoms are present: Fever (100.4'F/38'C or higher), fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, new loss of sense of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain. If a child is sent home during the day because they have exhibited any of these symptoms, the child’s parent will be required to: 1) quarantine the student for a 10-day minimum period; or 2) provide a doctor’s note for an alternative diagnosis (e.g., strep throat). Because COVID-19 symptoms are common, we anticipate that large numbers of students will be excluded from in-person learning. We also recognize the burden this requirement will place on parents to address unpredicted changes in student attendance.
Quarantining - Both students and staff who are in close contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case are required to stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to the case. Whiteside County Health Department will guide the families and district with quarantining protocol. When coupled with the lack of ability to cohort students, we realize that these quarantine requirements arising from in-school exposures will result in the exclusion of large numbers of students. These mandatory quarantining requirements will cause widespread disruption to the education of our students and may require a move to remote learning at all grade levels.
Workforce Issues - The impact of the mandatory quarantining guidelines on the school environment is compounded exponentially due to the shortage of teacher substitutes that all school districts in Illinois and River Bend CUSD 2. During a non-COVID-19 environment, we struggled to staff our building with qualified substitute teachers. Only one-third of our substitute teachers have committed to returning this coming school year. If staff is required to quarantine due to actual or potential exposure to COVID-19, whether in school or outside of school, our schools will be left with no classroom coverage with qualified substitutes.
The River Bend administration, staff, and Board of Education greatly appreciate the support of our community. More than anything we want to do what is best and the safest for all involved. Please know that your continued support truly makes a difference. We will closely monitor state directives and provide updates.
Darryl Hogue, Superintendent
Robert Gosch, FHS Principal
Patrick Henrekin, FHS Asst. Principal
Kathleen Schipper, RBMS Principal
Jeffrey Hoese, FES Principal