Dist. 181 students, staff return to school

Kristin McDaniel was happy to see her seventh-grade son Brady head back to class Tuesday at Hinsdale Middle School.

"I know that he, in order to be successful, really needed to have part time within the school and having that access not only to the teachers but the social aspect as well," she said.

A supporter of the hybrid model, she said she was hoping to see her older children, Hinsdale Central sophomore Cooper and freshman Maisie, back in class as well. They are currently on a fully remote schedule.

She praised administrators - especially HMS Principal Ruben Peña - for their work to get kids back in class, even though the plan to split learning between in-person and remote is not perfect.

"The schedule is much more convoluted than I would have liked it to be," she said of the A-B-C-D day schedule the kids rotate through. "It's confusing. It's confusing for parents."

Superintendent Hector Garcia said there are likely to be some adjustment pains.

"The first two weeks of school are a transition period where students are reviewing skills from the spring and teachers and students are getting acclimated to safety protocols and getting to know each other," he said. "We feel the third week will feel like we are fully back in the swing of things as we provide all of our students with a safe and academically challenging learning environment."

Eighth-grader Leah Theoharous agreed that the schedule will take some time to master.

"It was a little confusing," she admitted. "To be honest, I kind of relied on my friend to remember where we were going."

Although Theoharous was happy to see her friends and meet her teachers Tuesday, she believes receiving either fully remote or fully in-person instruction would be smoother.

"I do like seeing people at school, but I think it would be better if we did it online. I feel like that would be easier," she said.

Despite the schedule, McDaniel said it was a relief to see her son get on his bike and head off to school.

"They actually went to school and they talked about coming back the next day," she said. "It was a very, very long spring break for him."

Garcia said he sensed a lot of delight in the schools even with the focus on safety measures.

"All of our in-person students and staff were thrilled to be back in the classrooms and did a terrific job of adhering to safety protocols. The atmosphere was positive, calm and relaxed at each of the buildings and it was a joy to see so many of our students again," he said.

Remote instruction also seemed to get off to a good start.

"Our remote learners were also engaged and ready to go in their at-home classrooms and attended productive live sessions with their teachers," Garcia said.

A one-hour interruption to Internet service caused a temporary hiccup, he reported, but didn't derail the day.

"Our staff and families remained flexible and were able to jump right back in once it was resolved," he said.

The school checked the temperature of each entering student and hopes that more parents complete the online self-certification forms.

"By just the second day of student attendance, we already have many of our schools in 100-precent compliance and anticipate districtwide compliance by the end of the week," he said. "We know that other challenges will arise, but we are thrilled with our staff's safety efforts and our students' adherence to the new protocols."