School District 166

Principal shares more information on move to distance learning

As WTIP reported earlier this week, School District 166 has made the decision to “pivot” from the hybrid learning model for kindergarten through 3rd grade to distance learning, effective November 30.

The decision was made due to the rising COVID-19 positivity rate in Cook County. It followed the announcement on November 13 that the plan to begin the hybrid learning model for 4th- and 5th-graders had been reversed.

It is hoped that School District 166 can return to the hybrid model, which saw the K-3 students in school Tuesday through Friday, in mid-January.

But, Principal and Acting Superintendent Megan Myers stressed that is subject to change, depending on positivity rates and other criteria for having students in school. As of Nov. 18, Myers said the school district has 21 students and staff members either in isolation or quarantine at that time.

The decision to return to school will be made by the School/Community Incident Command Team (ICT).

At this time, childcare at the school will continue for Tier 1 workers under the program for critical workers, however, families are encouraged to keep their children home if they have the ability to work from home themselves.

All of this and more was discussed at the November 18 school board. Click below to hear WTIP’s Rhonda Silence speaking to Principal Myers about those learning model changes, about the mental health of the students who are not able to be in school, about the COVID-19 impact on school finances, and more.

In related news from the ISD 166 school board meeting:

* Dustin Opatz, of Bergandkdv, gave a presentation on the school’s recently completed audit. A motion passed to accept the audit. Documents from the firm can be seen here.

* Finance Director Lori Backlund also presented the budget for the 2021-2022 school year, pointing out that $283,000 is earmarked for unknown expenses related to COVID-19. Board Member Sissy Lunde asked if this “what if” allocation would be sufficient. She asked what would happen if it wasn’t. Backlund said there are efforts at the legislature to pass some legislation to hold schools harmless for losses due to the coronavirus.

Lunde, who goes off the board in January expressed concern that many students may have found alternative learning options and they may not come back to ISD 166. Board Member Deb White said she is optimistic that students will return, but encouraged the school administration to find ways for students to be in school in some way, as has been discussed. Principal Myers said that is a goal of the Incident Command Team.

White recalled that years ago the school took part in a snow sculpture contest in which big blocks of snow were brought in and different classes sculpted them. She suggested that someone take the lead on organizing something like that, which would be outside and could be done with social distancing.

White noted that people have been lashing out at the school, but they should try not to. She said if we want to be angry at something, it should be the coronavirus.

* The board heard an update from Safe Routes to School/State Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) coordinator Andrea Orest. Orest noted that things are quite different this year, but the Safe Routes to School Committee (SRTS) continues to work to get students walking or biking to school, if they are attending school in person, or walking “anywhere” if they are not. She said walking or biking to school is a small way to provide a piece of normalcy in students’ lives during these uncertain times.

Orest shared information on walking routes and the meeting point by the Cook County Community Center. She also gave information on future events, such as the Bike Rodeo that will hopefully be able to be held.

The board thanked Orest and the Safe Routes to School Committee for their work and approved the Safe Routes to School plan.

* Assistant Principal/Activities Director (AD) Mitch Dorr gave an update on how things went for sports and activities thus far. He noted that sports are now on hold until May. He said regional ADs will be meeting to arrange schedules.

The board approved the hiring of a coach for one sport, that may be able to happen sooner, Alpine skiing. The 2020-2021 coach is John Oberholtzer, who has been involved in the program for a few years.

Dorr said plans are in the works for the One Act Play competition to take place online. He said the JV Knowledge Bowl team, under guidance by teacher David Liechty, has started. The JV team took first place in their first meet.

* The board approved the hiring of a new paraprofessional. The school is in need of several other paraprofessionals, as well as a kitchen helper.

* The school board set its organizational meeting for Thursday, January 7. That is the meeting at which board officers are selected and assignments are made to various committees.