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Official: Despite delay, school meets rule

August 1, 2018

Under state law, school must be in session at least 176 days per year.

But Kankakee High School will be open to upperclassmen for fewer days — at least in the traditional sense.

Because of construction delays, the school district expects the high school will open Sept. 4, two weeks later than the Aug. 22 start date for other students.

There’s a possibility the delay could be even longer, Superintendent Genevra Walters said. But the school has no plans to extend the school year.

Even though they’ll be out of school, sophomores, juniors and seniors will be required to log into their Google Chromebooks on Aug. 22. This is how they’ll do their coursework until classes begin.

“In the traditional mindset, kids are learning in a bricks-and-mortar school. That’s not our mindset,” Walters said. “We believe learning can occur anytime, anywhere. The upperclassmen will be responsible for assignments.”

It’s like taking online classes in college, she said.

“I had an A in an online Spanish class. I never met the teacher,” Walters said.

The new system of learning is known as competency-based education, which focuses on measuring what students are learning, Walters said.

Despite the construction delay, freshmen and some special needs students will start attending Aug. 22. Teachers will have office hours and be available for upperclassmen. And social workers, administrators and teacher aides will visit the homes of students who fail to check in online.

The Daily Journal contacted the Illinois School Board of Education to see whether Kankakee High is meeting the 176-day requirement.

A spokeswoman said she would get an answer to the newspaper as soon as possible, but she did not do so in time for this story.

Walters said the district already had received a waiver from the state board allowing its students to work online as part of the competency-based curriculum. The school received the waiver before it learned of the delay, but the exemption covers such situations, she said.

Even before the last school year ended, the district already knew upperclassmen would come a week late because of construction issues. Then officials recently learned the delay would be two weeks.

The construction contract contains penalties for lateness, but the contractor’s delays are considered justified under the agreement, Walters said. Cold weather and an unavailable state inspector contributed to the delay, she said.

As it stands, Walters said school will start no later than Sept. 10, but she is not ruling out the possibility of beginning after that.

“We have weekly meetings on this. We’re not anticipating going beyond Sept. 10,” Walters said.

A $19.2 million revamp of the high school is part of a federal school construction loan program.

Once it is complete, the high school will have more of a college-like feel. Classrooms will feature small and large gathering spaces, as well as labs, for collaboration. The school also will have a remodeled front entrance, administrative offices, culinary lab, band room, auditorium, choir room, science prep room and cafeteria. All renovated spaces will have air conditioning.

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