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Unit 5 Will Move To Hybrid Instruction Starting Oct. 19

Exterior of Kingsley JHS
Emily Bollinger
When school began with remote instruction, Unit 5 said it would notify parents about second-quarter plans by Oct. 1. Thursday morning's announcement fulfilled that promise.

Unit 5 students will return to hybrid learning starting Oct. 19.

In email and video messages to Unit 5 parents, Superintendent Kristen Weikle said case numbers and testing positivity rates have fallen low enough to allow a partial return to the classroom. She also said the experience of other districts demonstrates it is possible to open safely with precautions.

When school began with remote instruction, the district said it would notify parents about second-quarter plans by Oct. 1. Thursday morning's announcement fulfilled that promise.

Credit Unit 5 / YouTube
The Unit 5 school district showed examples of distancing guidance during a video presentation of its reopening plan for the second quarter of the school year.

Weikle said the reopening plan was developed by Unit 5 with regular input from teachers’ union leaders, in the absence of comprehensive guidance from state school officials.

The plan is complex and has contingencies to adjust to changing data. At its base, students will be in classrooms two days a week. Monday-Thursday and Tuesday-Friday will be split by family last names. In the case of families with multiple last names, the name of the oldest child will apply to all students in that family.

Every student will have remote instruction on Wednesdays with 100 minutes of instruction and asynchronous activities the rest of the day.

Students will return to class on the following schedule:

  • Week of Oct. 19-23: PreK, K-2, 6th, and 9th grades
  • Week of Oct. 26-30: 3-5, 7-8, and 10-12 grades

Families will be able to opt-in for complete remote learning.
The district reopening plan includes several stages based on metrics and data from the state Restore Illinois plan, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the McLean County Health Department.

Weikle said data shifts will not cause rapid flip-flops in Unit 5 practices.

“That’s not realistic. That’s not good practice for our students, families, or staff. Before we move from one phase to another, the district is going to need to be in the previous stage for a minimum of 10 consecutive instructional days,” said Weikle.

The guidance itself might change as CDC and other recommendations from state and county officials suggest, Weikle cautioned.

She stressed parents should maintain a backup plan for child care.

If there is a spike of cases in a certain building, Weikle said the district may have to pause in-person instruction for additional cleaning.

Weikle also noted contact tracing may create shifts in who can be in class and who cannot.

“I’m going to ask--I know you may not like it. You may not agree with it. But please don’t argue with us because we won’t budge on that. If your child has been identified as a close contact, they have to quarantine for 14 days,” said Weikle.

The time spent planning in the first quarter of school, Weikle said, allowed the district to assure adequate staffing with Unit 5 teachers. As a result, she said the district has discarded plans to use the instructional program Edmentum.

If there is a return to more restrictive stages of the plan, Unit 5 said specialized services will remain in person.


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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.