Dist 117 Considering Allowing Elementary Students to Move to Smaller Class for Social Distance

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 27, 2020 at 3:35pm

Students in District 117 may have the opportunity to change schools after a surprising difference in class sizes during the return to in-person learning.

The first week of school has started off smoother than expected in District 117, but not without it’s share of both hiccups and surprises according to Superintendent Steve Ptacek.

Ptacek updated the School Board on how the return to learning has gone during the first week of school at Wednesday’s Board meeting. He says the main concern of administrators on the first day of school was getting returning students in class safely and on time.

There were so many logistical concerns about the structure of the in-person student on Monday, that that’s where the vast majority of our energy and resources were, and that went off tremendously smooth.

Yes we have traffic problems at the middle school, we’ve got some things we need to take care of, but for the most part everyone was shocked at how smooth that first day went, and I want to say the main reason that did, is because the community absolutely partnered with us out so much.”

On average, 27% of District 117 students are currently in remote learning at home. Ptacek says the difference from school to school in the percentages however has been very surprising, with South and Eisenhower elementary Schools having the lowest remote learners at 26%, and Lincoln and Washington having the highest with 40% and 39% respectively.

Ptacek says the variance in the elementary schools has presented an unexpected opportunity for parents who are concerned about their child’s class not having enough room to social distance.

We were absolutely shocked at the drastic difference at the percentage of students in some of our schools that their families have requested remote learning versus others, and that had led to somewhat of a sizable difference in the in-person class sizes between our schools.

Now there is not a magic way to solve that. We are not going to mandate forced movement of students from one school to another. One we just don’t want to do that to our community, two that would require busing and transportation needs we do not have in this point and time.

But option we can add to attempt to try to help is, if we have families that are in a class with 20 kids, and they see a similar grade level in another school with nine, and they do have concerns about sending their kids to school based upon the numbers and social distancing. If they will provide the transportation, we are going to open up that possibility of them moving on their own volunteer basis, those students from one school to another.”

Ptacek says the first week of school for remote students has had a few hiccups, especially in the Jr. and Sr. High where teachers are on the same remote learning curve for e-learning as the students are. Ptacek is asking parents and students like to be patient with the remote learning and says it will get better.

Seventy three percent of our students are attending school in-person, and with how they partnered with us and those numbers, show us that the community for the most part wants their kids to be in school. That was our main emphasis. We are working on the remote learning options and we hope to have those in place and to get better with that each week, but we’ve got to ask for patience with that.

I even think our in-person teachers right now are facing challenges. Elementary is a little different since they are having to teach just in-person, but our middle school and high school in-person teachers are having to struggle with how to record videos and at the high school with going to A/B block, those teachers are just having to reinvent what they are doing for in-person also. So it’s going to take some time, we are asking people to be patient with us, and this week we have been spending a lot of time working on how to improve the remote portion.”

Ptacek says the district from administrators and teachers to parents and students need to be adaptive right now as across the board the entire district is learning as they go during both in-person and e-learning options.

He says “it is like fixing the plane while we are flying it”, but going forward, if a class, school or the entire district is forced into remote learning, District 117 will ready as they work out the hiccups in the system.