In-person learning approved for District 128 schools

Students in Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools will be given the option of returning to the classroom this month.

The Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 board approved in-person learning by a 4-3 vote Monday and set Oct. 29 as opening day.

The hybrid model will be made available to the 3,400 students at the two schools. Families will be given more complete details of the schedule and surveyed Wednesday regarding their preference of having students attend in person or remain in remote learning.

In-person hybrid students will be divided into two groups with alternating morning and afternoon attendance, and will have four days per week of in-person instruction.

Remote learners will be connected to teachers and in-person learners via livestream, according to the district.

The board was split over health and safety concerns related to in-person learning.

"We are trying very hard as a board to look at all sides based on information and science," board President Pat Groody said during the meeting.

He was later joined in the majority to proceed with in-person learning by board members Karin Lundstedt, Kevin Huber and Casey Rooney. Board members Jim Batson, Lisa Hessel and Don Carmichael voted against.

The split vote was a reflection of public sentiment on both sides of the issue. Board members said they have received extensive public input on the matter in recent weeks.

A petition signed by 329 people asking that remote learning be extended at least until the end of the first semester, Jan. 13, was presented to the school board before the vote Monday.

However, anxious parents, students and supporters attended a Sept. 29 rally in downtown Libertyville organized by a group called Libertyville/Vernon Hills for In-Person School.

The school board on July 22 decided to start the school year solely with remote learning based on the uncertainty surrounding the health risks of the coronavirus. But as in other school districts, there has been a call to relax the guidelines and allow students back in classrooms.

Kristen Christensen, who founded the in-person school group, said she appreciated the board taking the time to consider all factors and was "very pleased" with the opportunity to choose what's best for her son.

"I believe that majority of the 800 members on my site seem pleased that they are moving forward with this option," she said. "I do feel like the board heard us and responded by working on this hybrid model for the students who choose to go back."

Other elements of the hybrid model, shared with parents Tuesday by Superintendent Prentiss Lea, said health risks will be reduced by eliminating large-group, in-person lunch.

Instructional minutes per class per week will be increased slightly, according to the district. Flexible office hours for scheduling student meetings before, after and during school also will be provided.

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