CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Unit 4 leaders are asking families to share their decisions this week on whether their children will learn in-person or attend the Distance Learning Program during the upcoming fall semester.

As WCIA first reported March 25, staff members are preparing for in-person, five-day, full-day schedules next school year. However, those who want to stay remote will have the option to attend a new District-level Distance Learning Program instead.

Superintendent Dr. Susan Zola said it’s been a year full of tough decisions for districts across the country.

“We’ve always tried to do them [make decisions] with the intention of what’s best for our staff and our students and our families in our community,” Zola said. “I think one of the things we realize is that some of our students have actually done really well on the virtual platform. And so, to continue to offer that option for those families and students who may have a medical need, or just may do better in that space, I think it’s one of those lessons learned. So it’ll be interesting to see beyond next year, if that’s something that becomes of interest to our community, and if so, as a district, our ability to continue to maintain that model.”

WCIA asked Zola if Pfizer’s announcement Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12 would impact families’ decisions for the fall.

“I do,” Zola said. “I’ve actually talked to a lot of families… Obviously, you can tell there’s a high percentage – over half – have already said, you know, we want to send our child back. But there obviously are another cohort of families that are just trying to figure out what’s best for their family. I do think vaccines will be one of those variables that helps that family make a decision.”

Zola said the district will be respectful of anyone who needs more time to make a decision on the fall. However, she urged families to give as much of a heads up as possible.

“The more information we can have by May 1, the easier it will be for Mrs. Boozer and myself to help district staff create the distance plan versus the in-person plan,” Zola said. “So, if we know that 15% or 20% or 10% of our families are interested, that’ll help us better create that model, because we’ll want the staff that are assigned or choose to serve in that role sometime in June and July, we want to pay them and help them sort of make sure that the program is built out.”

According to Unit 4, you will only be able to choose one option for the full school year, but there will be an opportunity at the end of the fall semester to revisit your choice based on available space.