Huntley District 158 superintendent says Oct. 19 is target date for K-5th grade to go hybrid
Oct. 19 is the target date for early childhood through fifth grade students in Huntley Unit District 158 to go to a hybrid learning model, Superintendent Scott Rowe said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, District 158 has been remote learning for the first part of the year, as there were uncertainties and changing health guidelines.
But now, Rowe said, McHenry County Department of Health is forming countywide metrics that support uniform decision-making.
Having this county consensus on meaningful health metrics is a game-changer for the district, Rowe said.
"I feel really good about the fact that the health department has made a formal recommendation that we move to hybrid," he said.
In addition, Rowe said, the district has been able to tighten its procedures to a point where he feels confident bringing students back inside buildings.
Families still will have the option to stay fully remote. Students, regardless of the option they choose, will remain with their current teacher.
Under the hybrid plan presented Thursday, the maximum class size will be 13 students. Each kindergarten through fifth grade class will be split into two groups, Group A and Group B. Siblings will be in the same group.
Group A will attend in person in the mornings on Mondays and Thursdays, and Group B will attend in the mornings on Tuesdays and Fridays. Everyone will be remote Wednesdays.
Face masks and social distancing will be required when students are in school.
The goal is to get the youngest students back into school first, as community members have told District 158 this is the age group that has struggled the most with remote learning, Rowe said.
When it comes to middle school and high school, he said, it's more complex. Positivity rates increase at that age group, and because of the school's population size, the buildings cannot maintain the 6 feet of distance.
"That doesn't mean we're not moving forward with bringing students back for in-person learning opportunities," Rowe said. "We're just not quite ready to share that publicly yet. We're still working in the background."
Rowe said he hopes to have this information ready for the public very soon.
Although returning to in-person learning is the district's preference, Rowe said this gradual return is a necessity.
Rowe acknowledged a gradual approach probably wouldn't be popular, but it is needed because of the threat of positive cases in students and staff, leading to an outbreak and putting the community at risk.
"That's just not a risk that I feel comfortable taking," Rowe said. "We have to be strategic about this, so that way we can move forward, and we don't ever have to go back."
Kindergarten through fifth grade families will receive a communication from District 158 to opt into the hybrid option or stick with remote learning, and to indicate if they will require transportation.
Selections will be due Sept. 27. Preschool families will receive a separate notification about the process. Rowe said preschool students will start on the same day as elementary students, although preschool operates a bit differently because it is more of a self-contained program.
At the end of his presentation on the hybrid learning model, Rowe added a note of caution.
"Everything is a month away. If everything starts to change with the health metrics that I just shared, that can throw it all out the window," he said. "We will continue to pay very close attention to that to ensure that we remain on the track that we are on."