Central to re-open with hybrid schedule

Students will be split into two groups, with each attending classes two days a week

District 86 students will start the school year with a hybrid schedule that combines two days a week of in-person classes with three days a week of remote learning.

“The students are at the center of our planning effort, but the decisions are based on the health and safety of the entire community,” Superintendent Tammy Prentiss said at the July 23 Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting. “Our ultimate goal is to return to 100 percent in-person instruction, but it is not possible at this time due to the guidelines that are issued by the local and state health organizations and the space constraints and capacity limitations that have been placed on us in Phase 4 due to protocols of social distancing and that limit of 50 individuals in a space.”

Schools will open Monday, Aug. 17, under the following plan:

• Students will be divided into two groups, with one attending in-person classes on Monday and Thursday and the other on Tuesday and Friday. Siblings will be kept together. Remote learning will take place the other three days a week.

• The school day will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 12:26 p.m., with 37-minute classes and five-minute passing periods between them.

• Lunch will not be part of the schedule; the goal is to add lunch during the first semester.

• Students will be required to participate in a thermal screening each morning and wear face masks.

• Students will sit in assigned seats in classrooms and on the bus.

• No visitors will be allowed on campus.

• Students who are unable or uncomfortable going to school can choose a fully remote model delivered through Edgenuity. The Remote 2.0 plan will offer class meetings three days a week, with classes meeting for 75 minutes two days a week and 25 minutes one day a week.

• The district will be prepared to move to full in-person instruction (when Illinois reaches Phase 5) or full Remote Learning 2.0 based on health conditions, a change in phases under the Restore Illinois Plan or directives from the county or state.

• Clubs and activity programs will provide a remote/hybrid experience for students. Athletics will be governed by Illinois Department of Public Health rules. An announcement on fall sports was expected following an Illinois High School Association board meeting Wednesday after The Hinsdalean went to press.

• Buses will run with a maximum of 50 students per bus.

Requiring students and teachers to wear masks and maintain six feet of distance will prevent the need to quarantine entire classes if a student or staff member tests positive for COIVD-10, Prentiss said. Only that individual will need to quarantine.

Several parents who spoke at the meeting were unhappy that 12 minutes of instruction is lost in each class with the shortened day and urged the district to open school with a full day and lunch.

Hinsdale Central Principal Bill Walsh said with 2,700 students on campus, hundreds of students in the same lunch period and a limit of 50 people in a room at a time, it is impossible to have all students in school at the same time.

“There’s no way to do that,” he said. “I would have 650 people in lunch if I had to do that, and I don’t know how I’d do that.”

Even with the hybrid model, seven separate lunch areas will be needed to accommodate the 350 teens in the largest lunch period. Officials are still waiting to find out how the health department will define a “wall” so they know if the partitions with mesh openings can be used to create multiple lunch rooms in the field house.

Once students master all the safety protocols, the schools will work toward adding lunch and offering a full school day with 50-minute classes, officials said.

Resident Debbie Levinthal said there might be room at Central for students to have lunch if enough families choose the fully remotion option. Walsh responded that 50 percent of families would have to do so.

“It could be, but you don’t know. You haven’t asked anybody yet,” Levinthal said. “Here it is the 23rd (of July) and I think people are feeling a little cornered. It seems like you could make it work and it doesn’t seem like you’re dealing with the facts of what people really want to do.”

Hinsdale South Principal Arwen Pokorny Lyp reiterated the plan is to add lunch as soon as possible.

“We all want 50-minute classes from 8 to 3 and our goal is as soon as all of those health guidelines are met, we will transition,” she said.

The district is developing protocols for students to have drinks and snacks during the day, she added.

The start of school will be later this year so teachers will have a full week of professional development to support them as they learn to blend in-person and remote learning opportunities for students.

“We feel that with very deliberate planning on the part of teachers and very deliberate professional development, we can’t truly maximize in-person instruction to lead to offline or online instruction in a sort of symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Covino, assistant superintendent for academics.

“What remote was last school year is no longer what ... remote in any place will be moving forward,” Prentiss said.

Families need to indicate whether students will participate in the hybrid model or the fully remote program by 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 31.

Prentiss encouraged families to model safety precautions at home to decrease the likelihood students will contract the virus and transmit it to others.

“We are really asking, imploring to partner with all of our families to model and support the same types of protocols that we are using here in District 86,” she said.

The board voted 6-0 approve the plan recommended by the 33-member Recovery-Revitalization-Restore committee. The group of teachers, department chairs and building and district administrators has been meeting since May.

In Community Consolidated Elementary District 181, board members are scheduled to vote at a special meeting tonight on a plan that offers in-person learning five days a week and a fully remote option.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean