Wanted: More students in classrooms at Barrington High

  • Barrington Community Unit School District 220 officials are encouraging more students to return to in-person learning at Barrington High School, where attendance has fallen below expectations since a hybrid plan went into effect last month.

      Barrington Community Unit School District 220 officials are encouraging more students to return to in-person learning at Barrington High School, where attendance has fallen below expectations since a hybrid plan went into effect last month. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2020

 
 
Updated 2/5/2021 8:41 PM

Barrington Community Unit School District 220 is looking to get more Barrington High students back in the building for full-time in-person classes.

"We have plenty of space at (Barrington High School)," Superintendent Brian Harris said during a school board meeting. "We've had a lot of kids that originally reported they were going to come in person and did not. They have changed their position and have chosen now to be in full remote."

 

The district reopened the school for in-person learning Jan. 19, using a hybrid model in which students alternated between attending class in the building and virtually.

But a recent attendance study shows that, particularly among high school students, there's a gap between those who said they wanted to attend in person and those who actually show up.

In the study, district officials looked at two days in which different groups of students were expected to be in the schools. Those numbers were then compared to actual attendance.

For early learning and elementary students, the percentage of attendance was near what officials expected -- 92% for early learners and 96% for elementary students. In the middle schools, 84% of the students planned for were in the building.

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But in the high school, the actual attendance was just 68% of what was expected.

"When we reported our attendance back in October, the younger the student, the more likely they are to be here when they said they were going to be here," said Matt Fuller, assistant superintendent for technology and innovation. "That's what we found again."

With attendance lagging behind expectations, the district has invited all high school seniors and juniors back for full-time, in-person learning "because we have the space," Harris said. All freshmen and sophomores will be invited back within the next few weeks, though there may be a need to rotate some freshmen because of the size of their class.

"That's the detail we're working out right now," Harris said.

The in-person high school attendance came as "a bit of a surprise," Principal Steve McWilliams said.

"Many of our seniors that were on hybrid have said, 'I'm comfortable with following the (rotation),'" McWilliams said. "We've seen the same scenario with juniors this week."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Harris said the study does not imply that all students want to stay home. Some students who were taking part in hybrid learning were not comfortable with the situation once they got into the building, he said.

"It's not school as usual," Harris said.

Between in-person, hybrid and full remote learning, overall daily attendance at Barrington High continues to be at 96% to 98% of enrollment, among the best in state, Harris said.

Harris said working through education issues during a pandemic has been his toughest task during his 11 years as a superintendent.

"By far, this is the most significant challenge. Why? Because it constantly changes," he said.

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