Libertyville, Vernon Hills high schools moving closer to full in-person classes

  • District 128 school board President Pat Groody, here with a member of the COVID-19 testing team at Vernon Hills High School, says testing is a critical element of the district's mitigation plan.

    District 128 school board President Pat Groody, here with a member of the COVID-19 testing team at Vernon Hills High School, says testing is a critical element of the district's mitigation plan. Courtesy of District 128

 
 
Posted3/4/2021 5:20 AM

Full-day in-class instruction is being considered as an added option for students at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools.

A final determination is pending, but an informal consensus of the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 school board supports allowing more time in class for those who want it.

 

A parent survey due by Sunday will give the board a sense of how many students want the full-day, in-person route. The school board will review the results and are expected to vote Monday whether to add a full-day, in-person option and, if approved, when that would start.

Superintendent Prentiss Lea recommended April 5 as the earliest the shift should occur, to provide a weeklong buffer after the end of spring break.

"I'm in full support of the plan," board member Casey Rooney said during a discussion Tuesday.

If approved, students would have three options: remote, hybrid or full-day, in-person learning four days a week.

Students currently are either learning remotely or in hybrid, which is a half day in class four days a week. Wednesdays are full-day remote learning for all students.

Hybrid learning in District 128 began Jan. 19. But pressure has continued from a vocal segment of parents to extend the amount of time students are in classrooms.

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The decision to move to full days is based on several factors, according to Pat Groody, school board president. Those include an improvement in COVID-19 metrics since the late fall, effectiveness of preventive measures, and an increasing body of evidence about the low levels of infection in schools when mitigations are in place.

Other factors are the low prevalence of COVID-19 in the student population and the availability of vaccine for teachers and staff members, Groody said.

Information presented to the board showed that all 500 teachers and staff members who want vaccination will be inoculated right after spring break, which ends March 26.

"I really feel confident we can do this and do it safely," Groody said.

Other preventive measures include temperature scans to enter the buildings, one-way hallways and district-funded, voluntary testing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

How many choose the all-day option could present a logistics challenge, Lea said. Parents will have to be comfortable knowing social distancing may be less than six feet in some instances, he said.

"The rule of thumb people are starting to talk about is six feet or as best you can," Lea said. The legal opinion has shifted and lawyers now say they could defend the district against liability based on the number of mitigation measures in place, according to Lea.

Groody said he was disappointed only 65% of those who elected in-person learning are being tested. Support was at 80% before the program started.

"Getting tested is one of the best things people can do to help keep COVID out of our schools and prevent it from spreading when it is there," he said.

Groody said he's perplexed why more people aren't willing to participate.

"We know our program is working and it could be even more effective if more students participated," he said.

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