D86 studies potential of hybrid instruction

Update expected at next week’s board meeting on how quickly kids can return to school

Hinsdale High School District 86 officials are reviewing information released last week by the DuPage County Health Department to determine possible next steps in an effort to eventually implement the district’s hybrid model for instruction.

The district announced Aug. 13 that it would start the school year with remote learning exclusively in the wake of newly issued guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education. The new guidelines tightened protocols in the event of a positive COVID-19 case in school communities. District families had been preparing for a blended virtual/in-person reopening before the sudden shift.

The DCHD guidance released Friday focuses on the various categories of COVID-19 transmission — mild, moderate and substantial — and case rate numbers used to establish the level.

“Based on these current factors, DuPage County is currently in the moderate level of transmission,” Superintendent Tammy Prentiss stated in a Friday press release.

Under a moderate level, she detailed, schools are advised to use models that maintain at least six feet of physical distancing, discourage mixing of groups of students and teachers during school days, and have a blend of virtual and in-person participation.

Prentiss said the district’s Recovery-Revitalization-Restore Committee has continued to meet in the hope of finding a way to transition to a hybrid model “as quickly and safely as possible.”

“That work is underway and will greatly benefit from the information provided by DCHD,” she added.

At the Aug. 27 District 86 board meeting, Hinsdale Central parent Kari Galassi said current COVID-19 case rate figures support a return to in-person learning, citing area private schools that are doing so.

“Let’s stay an elite district and do what is best for our children and our future leaders,” said Galassi, also lamenting the emotional toll remote learning is reportedly taking.

Board President Kevin Camden disputed claims that District 86 feeder districts were offering in-person instruction to some extent.

“In fact, most are not (hybrid) at this point, they scaled back to remote,” he said.

Camden stressed that the district was following guidance from the state and that state officials are the appropriate audience for people’s complaints about the guidelines.

“If you want to get the kids back in the classroom, my suggestion is continue to be angry. Just shift who you’re angry with,” he said. “We’re subject to both state and local jurisdictional requirements, and we’re not going to flout them, because it’s a losing battle.

“Until or if we can find a way to both comply with state and local mandates and protect student and staff safety, we don’t have much of a choice,” Camden added. “I appreciate the frustration as much as anybody.”

Prentiss said the R3 committee will provide an update at the board’s Sept. 10 meeting. The DCHD’s COVID-19 dashboard can be found at https://www.dupagehealth.org/610/DuPage-County-COVID-19-Dashboard.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean