Barrington District 220 moves return to in-person learning a week earlier, to Oct. 19

  • Barrington Area Unit District 220 students will return to some in-person learning Oct. 19 -- a week earlier than initially planned -- school officials said Tuesday.

    Barrington Area Unit District 220 students will return to some in-person learning Oct. 19 -- a week earlier than initially planned -- school officials said Tuesday. Daily Herald File Photo, 2019

 
 
Posted10/8/2020 5:00 AM

Students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 can go back to school Oct. 19 -- a week earlier than anticipated -- with a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning, if all proceeds well, district officials said.

About 68% of families in the district said they plan to send kids back to school with hybrid learning -- a blend of in-person and remote learning -- while 31% are opting to continue with only remote learning, which the district will provide for whoever wants it. About 1% remain undecided.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

However, the breakdown varies a lot by school, Superintendent Brian Harris told the district's board of education Tuesday night.

Barrington High School and the two middle schools largely mirror the district average. But at Hough Elementary School, as many as 89% of families are choosing hybrid learning, while at Sunny Hill Elementary, only 30% are doing so.

A total of 44 certified staff members asked for a leave of absence after the district announced its hybrid plan, Harris said. Fifteen of those positions were filled and nine are being filled, but 20 staff members that teach in "highly specialized areas" are hard to replace, Harris said.

The district will continue looking for replacements, but meanwhile the plan is to reassign or hire staff members to supervise students in classrooms while their teachers continue virtual instruction, he said.

Overall, Harris said he's "very confident" the district will have 95% staffing on Oct. 19.

Nine people, mostly parents, spoke at the board meeting Tuesday to advocate reopening immediately for full in-person learning. They cited hardship for families and the negative effects of virtual learning on students' performance and mental health.

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"Our district is spiraling downward. Our children are regressing and losing knowledge," parent Heather Ewalt said. Ewalt, also a substitute teacher in the district, said teachers say in private they have the same concerns.

Some of the parents pointed to other districts that reopened, such as Glenbrook High Schools District 225 and Lake Zurich Unit District 95, as well as private schools like St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. But St. Viator closed Monday to switch to remote learning because of its COVID-19 incidence rate.

"I know that the community is frustrated, and we are all truly trying to do the best we can," board President Penny Kazmier said.

District 220 has a four-phase reopening plan based on five metrics posted online at barrington220.org/coronavirus. Those metrics are now being updated daily, rather than weekly, after a suggestion from board member Barbara Wilcox.

The district plans to add a COVID-19 dashboard to its website -- like Palatine Township Elementary District 15 has done -- showing the total number of COVID-19 positive cases and quarantine cases among students and staffers at each school, spokeswoman Samantha Ptashkin said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wilcox also suggested moving future board meetings to a larger room that can hold up to 50 people, the maximum allowed under current state COVID-19 guidelines, and having a meeting the first week of November, after the board canceled its Nov. 3 meeting because it is Election Day. The rest of the board agreed; specifics will be announced at a later date.

The board room can fit up to 25 people, which means sometimes people have to wait outside and be called to speak, Ptashkin said.

"Anyone who wishes to speak during public comment has been able to do so," she said.

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