Libertyville, Vernon Hills high schools offering full day, in-person classes April 5
In-person learning for students at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools will expand to four full days a week starting April 5.
The action unanimously approved Monday at a special meeting of the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 school board aligned with preliminary plans presented last week by Superintendent Prentiss Lea.
"That gives us a little bit of cushion after spring break," he said. "Everything we're doing is to open school regularly next year."
Hybrid learning in District 128 begin Jan. 19. Those who chose to be in class have been in-person for half a day, four days a week. As of April 5, students can keep that schedule, opt for in-person four full days a week, or have full remote learning.
Wednesdays will remain a teacher-directed remote day for all students.
A preliminary survey showed 64% of students at Libertyville High School and 48% at Vernon Hills High School would choose the four full day, in-person option.
A binding choice survey will be sent to parents later this week or early next week. District staff will begin working on logistics, such as designating multiple locations for lunch, especially at Libertyville High School, officials said.
"One of the challenges will be to find space to feed students," Lea said.
The rationale for expanding in-person learning includes low prevalence of COVID-19 in the student population, protocols such as temperature scanning and mitigation measures in buildings, and voluntary BinaxNOW testing for students and staff, district officials said.
Testing has allowed the district to identify some asymptomatic cases before a mass quarantine of dozens of students was needed, according to Lea.
"It allows us to have a much better picture of the health inside our district," he said.
School board President Pat Groody said the district chose not to mandate testing based in part on legal advice, but also because 80% of those responding to a district survey said they would favor testing.
But participation has been well below that, prompting Lea and others to emphasize testing as one of the most important ways of keeping schools open.
Another factor in expanding the in-person option is the availability of vaccines for teachers and school staff. Vaccine sites have been operating at Round Lake and Stevenson high schools.
Most if not all educators will have had two doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of the first week in April, Lea said.
"We're the only county I'm aware of that has a vaccination plan like we do," Lea said. "We're very fortunate we're not out here searching for a solution."
Lea added a state guideline calling for a 50-person space capacity soon will be adjusted to allow a percentage of a given space to be used instead.
School officials did not think in-person learning for the remainder of the year would be affected by spikes in COVID-19 cases.
"I'm highly confident between now and the end of the year, we'll be fine," Groody said.