FILE - School Reopen Illinois, Oak Terrace Elementary School in Highwood

Students keep social distance as they walk to their classroom at Oak Terrace Elementary School in Highwood, Ill., part of the North Shore school district, on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – Some Illinois school districts are mapping out plans to allow students to return to the classroom while others are pushing back the date for making decisions on in-person instruction.

For some students and parents, the return to the classroom can't come soon enough. Recent rallies in Crystal Lake and Wheaton called on school officials to reopen schools for in-person learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic led some school districts that had planned to offer a hybrid approach to learning with a combination of in-class and remote learning to go entirely online. The Bloomington school district was one of them.

Barry Reilly, superintendent of schools for Bloomington District 87, said getting the younger students back in the classroom is a goal.

“I also look at transition grades,” he said. "For us and for many, that is going to be your 6th grade moving into middle school for the first time and 9th grade kids moving into the high school for the first time.”

Reilly plans to meet with other school officials within the next week to determine if bringing students back into the classroom for the second quarter is feasible. Other school districts have already made that decision. School districts in Waterloo, Columbia, Harrisburg and Sparta will soon be reopening classrooms for in-person instruction.

One of the largest downstate school districts also is making plans to reopen classrooms next month.

Dr. Sharon Kherat, superintendent of the Peoria school district, said some students are falling behind with remote learning. She said the pandemic has caused an unprecedented learning loss for all grade levels.

“There is no doubt, I mean all the research shows that,” Kherat said. “It’s daunting. We call it the COVID loss. We saw what is happening with reading, and nationally it shows about six months behind.”

To bring all students back, Kherat said there must be between 0 and 50 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the county. In order to bring some students back, there must be no more than 50 to 150 new cases per 100,000 people.

When Peoria does bring students back into the building, the youngest will be the first priority. That group includes kindergarten students, first-graders and students in special education. Kherat said those students stand to benefit the most from in-person instruction.

School districts in Harrisburg, Breese, Waterloo, Columbia and Sparta will soon be reopening classrooms for in-person instruction. 

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