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High School District 215 Board approves remote learning in third quarter

Opportunities for teachers and students to gradually return to school throughout semester

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (December 16, 2020) – Thornton Fractional High School District 215 voted during its board meeting Tuesday to continue remote learning during the district’s third quarter. The plan allows for teachers to return to school in February, with students starting to return in March.

The expected decision comes as COVID-19 continues to force shutdowns in Lansing and surrounding communities.

The plan for learning safely in 2021

Though flexible, the plan will give teachers the option to return to school starting February 16, 2021 and will tentatively bring some students to campus in a limited capacity in early March. More students could possibly be brought back to campus starting on March 15, the first day of the fourth quarter.

District 215 Superintendent Dr. Sophia Jones-Redmond. (Photo provided)

District 215 Superintendent Dr. Sophia Jones-Redmond said, “We are all in this together. And it’s never going to be my goal to put anyone in harm’s way, it is to not harm anyone. So we want to start—I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, I think we all can begin to see that with the vaccine being approved and more to come. So this is just a recommendation for now that we want to start opening up our doors on a slow, rotating basis and not all of us come back at one time all together.”

Jones-Redmond said remote learning was guaranteed to continue through the rest of the school year in some form, as she does not expect the student body to fully return in the 2020-2021 school year. “We’ll have to determine how many kids we can bring back right before [the fourth quarter starts], but it will be a well thought out process and we’ll make sure that it’s communicated very clearly. We’re going to start bringing students back, maybe 25 percent, and then go from there.”

Board President Michael Bolz asked to confirm the plan would be “contingent … on vaccine availability as well as what our positivity is and other variables in consideration.” Jones-Redmond said the plan is contingent on such factors.

Lansing students like Alex Blackwood have been e-learning since the first day of the 2020-2021 school year. (Photo courtesy of Julia Blackwood, August 2020)

Vaccine questions

Other discussion focused on vaccine availability for teachers, and Jones-Redmond explained there are ongoing efforts to ensure teachers are included in an essential workers category to allow them to be vaccinated sooner.

third quarter
Teachers will likely be returning to TF South’s campus on a voluntary basis starting on February 16. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Board member Richard Dust asked if the District would be making a vaccine mandatory for teachers. “At this time, we are not mandating that a vaccine be mandatory. The State has not signaled even that for our students, so it’s encouraged but we can’t mandate. … We’re involved in listening and hearing what’s on the horizon but nothing has been determined,” Jones-Redmond said.

The District 215 Board voted unanimously to approve the plan.

Third quarter services

According to a District 215 press release, the following services will continue to be available to District 215 students in the third quarter:

  • Schools will continue providing meals 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for students on all days when school is in session and can provide delivery if requested.
  • The student support hotline to support student mental health will resume operation at the beginning of quarter three. It is available from 3:30–6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Student Success Wednesdays will continue to allow teachers to work one on one or in smaller groups with students who need additional support outside of class.
  • Teachers will continue to hold 90 minutes of virtual office hours at the end of each school day (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) to offer extra help to students.
  • Many student activities will continue meeting virtually, allowing students to connect or reconnect with extracurriculars.
  • The technology team will continue to be available to assist with technical difficulties.

“I know this has been a highly anxious time for teachers, for school staff, and I certainly don’t want us going into the holiday break not being restful. These breaks are put in there so we can disengage and kind of de-stress,” Jones-Redmond said.

District 215 serves the students of Burnham, Calumet City, Lansing, and Lynwood at Thornton Fractional North High School, Thornton Fractional South High School, Thornton Fractional Center for Academics and Technology, and Thornton Fractional Center for Alternative Learning.


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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.