Girl and woman in front of a school bus.

The first days of school this year have looked different than any other year due to uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child’s Voice has taken many steps to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. We are dedicated to ensuring that all instruction is meaningful and purposeful. We are mandated federally to provide the necessary instruction according to each students’ IEP goals and objectives.

With all our best-made plans, we still had to delay in-person learning until September 21, 2020. Let me list a few things we have done:

  • Talked individually with each staff member about returning to in-person instruction in the fall
  • Talked to each family about their thoughts on their child’s return to the building in the fal=
  • Attended many webinars from different stakeholders (ISBE, CDC, ILDPH, and other listening and spoken language schools nationwide) to determine best practices for developing a back-to-school plan
  • Consulted with the Labor Department about the policies we need to have in place to keep staff as safe and healthy as possible so we can  understand how our policies will need to adjust and change in light of the current situation
  • Established high standards that can meet the rigorous need for the safety and well-being of our students and staff.
  • Worked diligently together as an organization to make sure our facilities, health protocols, and technology support the processes we will need for opening programs.
  • Systematically ordered, made, and assembled PPE for the entire school population.

Then right before we could welcome students, we experienced a positive result for the virus. This shook us, but also drove us to re-examine our game plan. We have a total of 28 students: 10 students who are 3 and 4 years old and 18 students who are 5-7 years old. We jumped from two children seeking remote education to 10 students. We needed to regroup.

Because it will take some time to do this while maintaining high educational standards, Child’s Voice went back to remote instruction. This type of instruction is difficult for all involved. It is hardest, I believe, on the very young students. In addition, unlike in the summer or even last spring, ISBE has said children must receive 2.5 hours of live teaching  via Zoom and 2.5 hours of other (non-teacher led) activities.

As a team, schedules have been designed to limit exposure and cross contamination when we return to face-to-face instruction.  We also needed to set up how we will adapt cleaning needs for our commonly used materials.

One way to lessen exposure is to work in Pods, (or a cluster of students and staff that do not overlap), which requires working out how speech, school counseling, and audiology is handled.

In July, we thought ‘Oh my gosh, we are such a small program with a low amount of staff and students.” Then we saw how quickly the program could close because of that exact same thought.

I thank the staff for working so hard. It is not easy to craft remote lessons AND plan for in-person instruction. But most of all, it is not easy for them to continue to deal with the unknown.

I especially thank the parents. Although I know you are frustrated now by the third delay in opening school, we know ultimately we all want to stay healthy and safe.

The partnership between all staff members and all our families must be even more solid and respectful during this pandemic as prior to it. We must be responsible in our actions as the consequences affect not only ourselves but our personal families as well.

The critical metrics we are following for Child’s Voice are:

  • The seven-day average percent of test positivity
  • Increasing hospital admissions for COVID-like illnesses
  • Medical/Surgical and Intensive Care Unit bed availability

These indicators help us determine if Child’s Voice can remain open or needs to revert to full remote learning.

Fondly,

Dr. Michele