PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Public Schools board called a special meeting Wednesday night to revisit the return-to-school plan.
June 22, 2020, the board voted to move forward with their top option. The three options were in-person instruction, virtual learning only, or a hybrid learning model, which is a mixture of both in-person and virtual learning. Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said the return-to-school committee, comprised of 131 people, thoroughly researched each option for weeks. The committee determined the hybrid model option has the least risk.
Under the hybrid learning plan, school leaders said students will still have rigorous workdays. Students will have to follow a consistent schedule with five hours of work per day. Board members said students can complete tasks from any location, whether that is at home or in child care.
Questions arose regarding the productivity of students when they are not in the classroom. School staff said checklists will be provided to students and virtual support members will check-in with students on virtual learning days. Through online learning platforms, the teacher will be able to track participation. The content from online learning days will be similar to content taught during in-person instruction, but school leaders said it won’t be “apples and apples.”
Dr. Kherat said rounding out the hybrid plan is a daunting task, but step by step the board is fleshing out details so parents know what to expect for the upcoming school year.
Some parents approached the board Wednesday night with objections to the hybrid learning model, suggesting they find other options. Marie Lindahl is a teacher with Peoria Public Schools and a mother. The board’s decision to move forward with the hybrid plan has struck a nerve with Lindahl and her daughter. Lindahl cries at the meeting while explaining to board members how necessary in-person learning is for her kids. She said her daughter is a 504 student and struggles socially, being out of school impacted her mental health.
“She was to a point where she was so down that she asked me to take her Methodist,” Lindahl said.
Other parents approached the board reiterating how imperative it is that students are in classrooms this upcoming school year, adding all students need to be considered in terms of how they learn best.
Dr. Kherat points our current circumstance and said we cannot have everything we want during a global pandemic. “We have to remind ourselves that this will not be a normal year as we know it,” she said.
Dr. Kherat said she has been pulled in different directions because not everyone can agree on the hybrid learning model. She said there is no perfect solution, but hybrid learning is a compromise.
The board will continue discussing the hybrid plan and all elements that need to be considered. The bell schedule may be changed to accommodate students in need of transportation. Also, board members said there needs to be a screening process for teachers and students at high-risk. They considered options for teachers who want to keep their jobs, but do not feel safe coming back to school.
Surveys will be sent out to parents concerning latchkey after school program. This service had a price-tag last year, board members question whether it should cost parents this upcoming school year. Peoria Public Schools staff want your input.