District 25 sets Jan. 19 as return-to-school date, if metrics improve

  • The Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board on Thursday night set Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 as the reopening date for students who choose to return. Families who want to remain in remote learning would be able to.

    The Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board on Thursday night set Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 as the reopening date for students who choose to return. Families who want to remain in remote learning would be able to. Courtesy of Arlington Heights Elementary District 25

 
 
Posted11/13/2020 5:30 AM

Despite surging COVID-19 cases in the region, Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board members on Thursday set Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 as the date to return to full in-person learning -- as long as health metrics improve.

That means the positivity rate in suburban Cook County must drop below 8%, or there are fewer than 70 new weekly cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the Arlington Heights area.

 

But perhaps more significantly, board members agreed late Thursday to change how they define the 6-foot social distancing standard that would allow more students to come into classrooms on a daily basis.

Under the current hybrid program that has students attending full-day, in-person classes two times a week, 6 feet is defined as the distance from the edge of one student to the edge of the next. That means about a dozen students can fit into an average-sized classroom at a time.

But the board agreed to change that measurement to "point to point," or head to head, which would allow as many as 20 students in some classrooms.

Students would still have to follow other mitigation measures, such as wearing masks and washing hands, and families still would be able to choose to remain in remote learning.

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Of 32 elementary school districts in North suburban Cook County, 14 offer some level of in-person learning. A dozen of those define 6 feet in classrooms as "edge to edge," while only two use the "point to point" distance, District 25 officials said.

Seventeen districts are fully remote or, like District 25, are in a hybrid model with a mix of remote and in-person classes. But that's changing every day as local coronavirus cases increase and districts transition to a so-called adaptive pause.

The District 25 board has been debating a full reopening for months, amid calls to do so from many parents but pushback from the local teachers union.

Board President Brian Cerniglia acknowledged that the intent was to vote on a reopening date before the holidays. But as COVID-19 numbers started going up again in recent days, he said, other districts have also been targeting Jan. 19 as their return date.

The board's motion Thursday night also came with the caveat that a full reopening would depend on the ability to staff schools, as Superintendent Lori Bein said it's becoming more difficult to cover classrooms.

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