Libertyville High, Vernon Hills High to resume remote learning in August
Troubled by fears of students, teachers and family members getting sick with the COVID-19 virus, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 trustees have decided students will be taught remotely when the 2020-21 term begins next month.
As much as they want to welcome students back to the Libertyville High and Vernon Hills High campuses, officials said they don't see a scenario for in-school learning that doesn't result in people contracting the potentially deadly disease.
"As you continue to dig into this," Superintendent Prentiss Lea said, "it's a dead end."
Meeting online, the District 128 board approved the remote-learning plan late Wednesday night following a nearly four-hour debate of available options. The Illinois State Board of Education has given school districts three choices: in-person classes, remote learning, or a blend of both.
District 128's new remote-learning model is different than the emergency plan rushed into place in March when schools across the state were ordered to shutter.
Under the new plan, students must be online for classes at scheduled times rather than working independently. Students and teachers will meet live over the internet in every period, too, and traditional grading methods will be used.
Classes will be held five days a week. On four of those days, students will have a block schedule in which they'll attend only four classes, each longer than a usual class period, officials explained. Once a week, students will have a traditional eight-period schedule.
Administrators noted there are negatives to remote learning. The plan limits in-person social and emotional supports for students, and it potentially increases students' isolation and anxiety, as well as screen time.
Still, the remote learning plan passed 6-1. Trustee Kevin Huber stood alone in dissent.
Voicing concern about students being away from friends and teachers as they were this spring, Huber said he wanted teens back in school five days a week.
For everyone else in the discussion, the risk of people contracting the virus because the buildings reopened outweighed the drawbacks of remote learning.
"I can't ignore and dismiss that some students are going to get sick," Libertyville High Principal Tom Koulentes said. "I can't ignore that some staff are going to get sick."
Classes will start Aug. 24 rather than Aug. 12 as originally planned. First semester will end in mid-January rather than at winter break.
Wednesday's discussion started with District 128 spokeswoman Mary Todoric reading 20 messages from community members.
One woman reportedly wrote that she'll move out of the district if in-person classes aren't held. She also called the springtime remote learning "a living hell" because she had to persistently make sure her teens were doing schoolwork instead of goofing off.
Conversely, a couple writing together reportedly supported remote learning and said a student dying of the COVID-19 virus would be "a nightmare scenario" for the district.
Two parents writing separately reportedly said they originally supported a partial return to campuses but now want their kids to be educated remotely.
District 128 officials aren't alone in choosing remote learning for the fall. It'll also be in place, at least at the start of the school year, in Stevenson High School District 125, Elgin Area School District U-46 and elsewhere.