Rhonda Silence

School board gets report on first day of hybrid model for K-3

Thursday, October 22, was a very busy day for School District 166. The district re-opened its doors to students from kindergarten through third grade in a hybrid learning model and in the evening held a school board meeting.

The meeting was one of the shortest held in months and included a report from Megan Myers, principal, and acting superintendent, about the “pivot” that took place earlier that day. Myers said things went remarkably well. She said parents dropped off students appropriately; students had their lunches and wore their masks and respected the social distancing guidelines. She said it was different, but “it felt like school.”

Board member Carrie Jansen said credit for the smooth first day goes in part to the Zoom meeting for parents conducted by Principal Myers. She said walking participants through what returning to school would look like was very helpful. Jensen said the school board has talked about improving communications and this is a great example of how that could happen. She suggested that meetings like these continue, even after the pandemic.

Myers also reported on the devices being used by students in school and during distance learning days. Every student has their own device. She noted there have been some broken devices and said the school’s decision to obtain devices under a lease program was wise. She said if a device breaks, it is replaced at no charge to families, at least for the first incident.

Board Member Rena Rogers expressed concern that having to pay to replace a device could be a hardship for a family. Myers agreed and assured the board that the school would work with families who may find this a hardship.

The board reviewed a draft resolution that gives the superintendent and the school’s Incident Command Team the authority to make changes to the school model (in person, hybrid, or distance) without having to call a special school board meeting. This was discussed and a consensus was reached on this at the last school board meeting on October 13, but the resolution makes that decision official.

Board Member Rogers said she believes there is a great representation on the Incident Command Team and she said they have been doing good work. She noted that Cook County had just released information on the fourth COVID-19 positive case in a week, which she said demonstrates the importance of having the Incident Command Team.

The board noted the latest information on un-enrollments. As of October 21, there have been 61 withdrawals. Some new students came into the district, so overall enrollment is down 51 students from 431 in September 2019 to the current number of 380.

Board Member Jensen asked Myers if she knows what choices the students who left the district had made. Myers said 10 families choose an online school option, 21 were homeschooling, and 22 children went to area charter schools.

In other business:

  • At the start of the meeting, the board heard a report from student representative Hazel Oberholtzer. She spoke about going to the recent football game to watch her younger brother play and about the volleyball team back in action. She said having these activities has given a sense of normalcy to these student-athletes. The school board asked her how she thinks students are doing with the distance learning model. Oberholtzer said students are tired of the COVID-19 restrictions, but it seems that most understand it is necessary.
  • In his report later in the meeting, Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr agreed that students were very excited about being able to participate in sports. He said it is apparent how important interaction with their peers is and he said the school is working to plan other activities for students to take part in safely.
  • There was a letter of resignation from bus driver Terry Backlund. Backlund said he was resigning because he has become too busy with his realty business. He said he greatly enjoyed his time as a bus driver and added that he appreciated the leadership of school maintenance director Tom Nelson. The board accepted his resignation with regrets and appreciation for his service.
  • In related news, the board approved hiring Andy Keith, who was recommended by Backlund, to take over his school bus route.
    Finally, the administration reported on the work of the school food program. Myers said over 300 meals, breakfast and lunch, are being prepared each day. The board thanked them for their efforts.