Dear District 161 students and families,
I hope all of you had an enjoyable Winter Break with your families and that your new
year has started positively! This letter contains important information about our plans
to return students to in-person learning once the local COVID-19 infection and positivity
In planning for this return, we focused on three main objectives: 1) Providing a safe
school environment for students and staff members, 2) Providing more or equal
instructional time for in-person instruction as compared to our current remote learning
plan, and 3) Increase access to the direct services that our children need, including
speech and language, special education, and mental health support. On January 25th,
small groups of Preschool, Early Childhood, K-8th special education students, and
students needing additional academic support will return to school. Special education
students will be in a hybrid model with a classroom teacher, while the other students
will complete remote learning from school.
For all other students, we are tentatively planning to offer a return to in-person
instruction on February 16th. Parents have the choice between two options:
1) Remain in remote learning five days per week or 2) Send their child for in-person
instruction Monday through Thursday, with Friday being remote instruction with their
teacher. Current PJHS students taking classes at HF High School can return to
in-person instruction, but their high school classes will be conducted remotely from the
Parents, please complete this important program selection form no later than
Sunday, January 10th. Beginning on Monday, January 11th, our team will begin
creating the classes before having follow up meetings with our teaching staff and our
District Leadership Team, which includes parents, to finalize the details.
There are a few items to consider as you make the program determination for your
- The current plan is to offer full days of in-person instruction, following the normal school day schedule, including students eating lunch at school;
- The District 161 Reopening Plan and all of the safety protocols within, will be used as we return to in-person instruction, including: mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, keeping students in cohorts to minimize COVID-19 spread, increased cleaning and sanitizing, and COVID-19 self-certification / screening.
After you complete the program selection form for each child that you have in District
161, the following timetable will be used:
- January 25, 2021: Preschool / Early Childhood, special education, and remote learning from school students will begin;
- January 25, 2021: The District 161 Board of Education will meet to review local COVID-19 metrics, remote learning / in-person program numbers, and to make a decision about returning to in-person learning on February 16th;
- January 26, 2021: Students and parents will be notified of the decision to remain in remote learning or to begin the in-person option on February 16th.
After reading this letter, if you have any questions or concerns that you would like to
discuss before making a decision, please contact your building principal for specific
guidance regarding your child[ren]. Please be sure to complete the form no later than
next Sunday. It is important to note that some students will have to change teachers
because of the move from remote learning only to a hybrid model, regardless of which
model you personally choose. If you don’t complete the form, we will keep your
child in the remote learning program.
In closing, thank you for your patience, understanding, and thoughtful feedback. We
have made it this far by working together and we will continue to partner with our
students, families, and staff to make the best decision for District 161. Please join us
at our virtual Board of Education meeting on Monday, January 25th and you will
receive a letter from me on Tuesday, January 26th outlining our next steps.
Dr. Dana Smith, Superintendent