Libertyville District 70 looks to increase instruction time
News that Libertyville Elementary District 70 likely will complete the school year in hybrid learning mode has riled some parents and prompted a school board directive for more instructional time.
Superintendent Matt Barbini was directed to find ways to do that whether students are in the classroom or learning remotely.
"They want to see instruction increase for all kids in hybrid," learning, he said. "We're going to take a look at how we can do it both ways."
At the same time, Barbini and administrators will plan to start the 2021-22 school year with the expectation students will be back in person for a traditional school day.
How that might be done and the variables involved, such as the potential need for space and teachers, for example, will be presented to the school board March 15.
"Our task now is to look very creatively and with an open mind of how to increase instructional time," and plan for next year, Barbini said Tuesday.
Those directives came Monday during a lengthy school board meeting that included dozens of strongly worded public comments criticizing a letter Barbini sent to parents last week.
Some commenters, who want their children back in school full-time, said the letter was disconcerting and described themselves as saddened, disheartened or disappointed at Barbini's stance.
In the letter, Barbini said the district's pre-K through eighth-grade students "will likely complete the 20-21 school year in the hybrid learning model." Doing so would provide a level of consistency for students, family and staff, he wrote.
Other considerations were: the unknowns of how long staff will be immune after receiving both doses of the coronavirus vaccine; whether they would still be able to transmit the virus to others; and, the fact students don't qualify for vaccines, Barbini said.
Six-foot social distancing guidelines still must be followed, but with that and other measures, the district has been able to accommodate the 80% of elementary and 68% of middle school families who want their kids in school, he wrote.
Opponents argued schools have been shown to be a safe environment, and that students were falling behind academically and socially by not being in the classroom full-time.
"It just seems as though our administration has given up and that is just so very unfortunate," Lynne Wallace, who has a seventh-grader at Highland Middle School, told the board.
Barbini acknowledged the feedback and push by some to get kids back in school full-time.
"There's very strong advocacy on this, and there should be," he said.
He added he wants students in class, too, but that has to be balanced with health guidelines and directives.
The task now is to make "incremental and reasonable" improvements to the hybrid model and develop the plan to start 2021-22, he added.