District 73 plans to double in-class learning time
In-class time for hybrid learning in Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 will double to four days a week beginning March 15 if all goes as planned.
Staff and families next week will receive details for the tentative debut of "hybrid plus" for K-8 students.
Superintendent Pete Hannigan outlined the latest steps Thursday.
"It's important to note that now that more than 90% of our staff has been vaccinated, we'll be relying heavily on the student metrics to determine if on-site learning is sustainable," he told the school board.
Hannigan also targeted May 13 to finalize the fall reopening plan. It's envisioned as being five days a week in-person learning for students who want that option. A survey will be distributed March 29 to gauge parents' intentions for the next school year.
The school board last November approved a hybrid learning model for students. But no timeline was set, and hybrid learning didn't start this school year until Feb. 1.
Currently, District 73 hybrid students are in the classroom two days a week and remote the other three days. The percentage of hybrid versus fully remote learners is nearly evenly split, according to school board President Robin Cleek.
Since Feb. 1, there have been no reported COVID-19 cases among students or staff.
"We really needed to see how this all played out in person, and whether what we were doing was enough to prevent the spread of COVID before we moved to students coming to school more often," Cleek said.
District 73 is proceeding because it has the five-layered mitigation strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in place, Hannigan said. Those measures are to be used regardless of the level of community transmission.
According to the CDC, schools with in-person learning should prioritize the universal and correct use of masks and have at least 6 feet of physical distancing.
District 73 also conducts contact tracing in collaboration with the Lake County Health Department and has access to on-site COVID-19 testing for symptomatic staff.
However, the pace at which District 73 students have been allowed back to the classroom riled some parents. Several spoke at Thursday's board meeting.
Will Callinan said his son went from someone who excelled to someone who hates school. He said the school board was "hiding behind recommended guidelines" rather than taking action.
"Parents will not wait. Parents are moving. Parents are putting their kids in private schools," he said.
On Friday, Jessica Kruswicki, a member of a parents group for in-school learning in District 73, said the expanded hybrid plan is a huge win.
"However, we need not stop there. We need to get back to five days" a week, she said.
Cleek said the district gets as much feedback from people who favor remote learning for the time being as those who don't, which shows there is no clear majority on either side.
"With something that can have such serious consequences, we can't make this decision based on emails, public comments or show of hands," she said.