An important update from Dr. McTague
I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we worked to reopen our schools in the fall. We believed our comprehensive Return to School plan was solid, and the hybrid option was the best approach to bring students back to our building safely. However, as we have stated, this is a very fluid process and conditions on the ground are changing every day - making it increasingly difficult to reopen for in-person instruction.
New Covid-19 cases continue to rise in McHenry County along with the positivity rate. The McHenry County Health Department indicated last week their capability to contact trace and provide timely Covid-19 testing results is limited. They have also changed the transportation quarantine guidance which impacts our bus service. As cases continue to climb throughout the state, it will further impact all public health agencies' ability to assist school districts, and will most likely result in a mandatory shift to remote learning very soon after we begin school.
From the beginning, we have relied upon guidance from the state, ISBE, and public health departments to reopen our buildings. Unfortunately, the guidance and requirements have been conflicting, evolving, and often contrary over the past three months as the district developed our return-to-school plans. It is untenable to reopen our schools with information concerning health and safety provided by state or health officials that is incomplete, vague, or contradictory in nature. We understand and sympathize that many of these agencies are doing their best, and they are also dealing with many unknown factors concerning the Covid-19 virus, including transmission and community speed that impact the health and safety of our school community.
Both of our feeder districts 15 and 36 have selected a Fully Remote Option to open school. We acknowledge the potential impact and struggles our families may experience with high school and elementary and/or middle school/junior high students on different schedules. We have also seen a sharp increase in the number of families selecting our digital learning option, which could potentially put us beyond our capacity to serve and support our students effectively under both models.
In addition to our own feeder districts, many surrounding districts in Lake County and McHenry County have also moved from a Hybrid Learning Model to a Full Remote Instruction to open the school year this fall. These decisions will greatly impact our ability to fully staff our classrooms for any in-person instructional model.
All of these factors weigh heavily on our decision whether to reopen our buildings to students in the fall. As guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), IHSA, county health departments, and other health organizations continue to evolve, along with the other factors noted above, we have come to the conclusion that opening school at this time under a Hybrid Model is no longer possible. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to begin the year with our MCHS Fully Digital / Remote Learning - Return to School Plan.
I know for many of our families this is not the news they wanted to hear. We’ve heard from so many of you who were looking forward to returning for in-person learning this fall, and we shared your enthusiasm. Please know we did everything we could to build a plan that would allow us to reopen our buildings. I want to assure you we will continue to evaluate the conditions on the ground with the goal of returning to in-person instruction as soon as possible. The good news is that our MCHS Hybrid Plan has been fully vetted and our buildings are ready to receive students when appropriate.
MCHS Fully Digital / Remote Learning Plan
Throughout last spring and over the summer, we have been revamping our Fully Digital / Remote Learning Plan based on stakeholder feedback and best practices. I can assure you that the new plan is significantly different from our students’ prior experiences with digital learning in the spring. For example:
Students will be required to engage synchronously (real-time) with their teachers every day and follow a prescribed bell schedule under a modified A/B block model. This is the same remote instructional model we successfully used for all Summer School courses during June and July.
We have also upgraded our technological infrastructure and equipment so we can continue to deliver a high-quality remote learning experience to all of our students.
Throughout the digital learning / remote period, we will evaluate ways to bring small groups of students back into the building for limited in-person instructional opportunities, prioritizing students with special needs, while following all state, ISBE, and public health requirements. This may also include students who require additional academic support.
Please read the details of our:
MCHS Digital Learning 2.0
Screencast of MCHS Digital Learning Plan 2.0
You have my assurance that District 156 is “Focused on the Future” and I can say without any hesitation that the future is bright for MCHS D156! As I looked out my window throughout the summer, I enjoyed watching our new state-of-the-art Center for Science, Technology, and Industry taking shape. Given all of the challenges and adversity over the past six months, it stands as a beacon of hope and promise of a better future for our school community. During this unprecedented pandemic, we will continue to provide a quality academic experience and social-emotional support for our students and their families.
Thank you to all of our staff members, teachers, administrators, community stakeholders, and our school board members who worked so hard over the summer to bring our students back to school this fall. I want to assure you our collective goal to reopen our schools in the near future remains undeterred. Finally, I want to reiterate that although we are disappointed that we cannot welcome all students back to the building this fall, I am positive that our new MCHS Fully Digital / Remote Learning Plan will provide a high level of academic instruction and rigor so our students can move forward in their educational careers.
Thank you again for your support and understanding during this unprecedented pandemic. I’m confident that we will continue to overcome any challenge or adversity, together as One - One School, One Community, and One Family.
We Are Warriors and We Are One!
Ryan McTague, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools