Details of D86 reopening plan announced

Students return during week of Oct. 5, then 25 percent attend for week at a time

While most Hinsdale Central students will be back on campus for one day during the week of Oct. 5, the final group of in-person learners won’t return until Nov. 2 according to the Hinsdale High School District 86 reopening plan.

The plan, released at the Sept. 24 school board meeting, calls for 25 percent of students to be on campus at a time. Each of the four equal groups — which will be assigned by an algorithm and will have siblings grouped together — will attend a single half day the first week of October.

Then each group will return for a full week of in-person classes, starting with group A on campus the week of Oct. 12. The modified block schedule has four 65-minute periods and runs from 8 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

The decision to have each group attend for one full week was based on guidance from the DuPage County Health Department’s Return to School Framework to limit or avoid mixing groups of students and teachers during the day, said Chris Jasculca, communications director.

“By bringing in one group at a time, we can adhere to this recommendation and keep our students, staff, families and community healthy and safe,” he said.

Students in the E group, who have unique needs and have been identified by educators, will attend every day. The R group will remain in remote learning all year.

The plan will remain in place while the county is in a “moderate” transmission rate, as defined by the DuPage County Health Department. If the transmission rate slows to “minimal,” 50 percent of students will be allowed on campus. If it increases to “substantial,” all students will learn remotely from home.

“Should we be able to get that robust saliva testing system in our school system, I also believe we could maintain that 50 percent in person even if the county is at that moderate level,” Superintendent Tammy Prentiss said.

The transition week of Oct. 5 is designed to help students acclimate to being back at school, said Chris Covino, assistant superintendent for academics.

“It’s not incredibly easy to jump back into in-person instruction,” he said. “Most students have never even walked their schedule. Even if they are seasoned Hinsdale South or Central students, that may take a minute to figure out.”

In order to maintain consistency, the primary method of instruction for all students will be remote, now called Remote 2.0+.

“The plus in Remote 2.0+ refers to the other things that can happen because there are some students in the building,” Covino said, citing science labs as an example.

Students will wear headsets and use Zoom even when they are at school so all students can participate in class. Teachers will be given amplification devices so they can be heard through their masks. The district’s bandwidth also has been increased to avoid system crashes.

“We’ve been doing a lot of testing to make sure all the technology is going to work,” said Keith Bockwoldt, chief information officer.

The plan also allows teachers to work remotely if necessary. The district expects as many as 29 teachers will not be able to come to campus, said Mary Dudek, interim director of human resources.

“We try to work around that as best we can to make sure our staff is in front of our kids as much as possible,” Dudek said. “It’s not easy. It’s a puzzle, but we’re working on it every day.”

When in-person learning resumes, 19 substitutes will be needed at Hinsdale Central to cover teachers who have taken leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Twenty-nine subs will be needed districtwide. The district had 17 confirmed subs as of last week.

If teachers have to be home for childcare reasons or because they have been quarantined but are able to teach, they will do so remotely and a “line of sight” sub will be hired to monitor the five to seven students who will be in the classroom.

An additional 10 subs could be needed districtwide each day to cover staff members who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the year.

“There are a lot of symptoms on this list. Any one symptom would trigger a call to HR and perhaps an absence or a remote working assignment for that period of time,” Dudek said.

Prentiss said the availability of teachers and subs will affect whether school buildings can remain open.

“Even if we have figured out all the safety and protocols and the technology piece, quite frankly, staffing is something that could also cause us to be unable to sustain or maintain in-person instruction,” he said.

The district had four positive cases of COVID-19 as of Sept. 23, with 28 individuals in isolation and 86 in quarantine. A total of 14 positive cases have been reported among faculty, staff and students since the start of this school year. The district is now reporting cases each Friday on its website at > COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Many administrators praised the staff for all their hard work. Central Principal Bill Walsh said the students also should be recognized.

“I don’t want to forget the 4,000 students of District 86 who have demonstrated an unbelievable sense of maturity, an unbelievable desire to be successful in their classes and engaging in these classes day in and day out,” Walsh said. “It’s as hard for them as it is for teachers, and they are pivoting the way they have learned how to learn for the last 10 years, in some cases 11 years.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean