The return date for students and staff at H-F High School is unknown, but administrators and teachers continue to study possible plans.
At the Nov. 17 school board meeting, Principal Jerry Anderson said, “The goal is to transition to hybrid learning during the second semester.” Depending on COVID-19 numbers and safety protocols, students could return to campus Jan. 25 or Feb. 1. Students also will have the option of continuing on the e-learning program.
The school board will discuss next steps for the second semester return at its Dec. 15 meeting.
Anderson said the transition is on a “flexible time line. We know that we may not be able to implement this as planned, but this is what it would look like if we were to come back in January.”
Anderson gave three schedule scenarios. Each plan would begin the day at 8 a.m. Students would attend classes until 12:10 p.m. The on-campus day is ending then because scheduling lunchtime is difficult. Safety guidelines say no more than 50 people can be in a space at the same time. Lunch shifts at H-F generally serve hundreds of students.
Instead, students will pick up a bagged lunch available at school and head home for asynchronous learning or support meetings starting at 1:30 p.m. The day’s schedule is just 10 minutes short of a traditional school day, she said.
H-F has a student body of 3,000 students. It is not known how many students would continue on a remote schedule. Still, to meet COVID-19 safety guidelines the students returning to H-F would initially be split into four groups. Each group would attend in person one day a week, or a second option is for each group to attend two days in a row. Whatever plan is chosen, students would be on campus twice in a two-week cycle.
This plan limits the amount of time students spend in the building for social distancing purposes, but it does give them time with teachers and staff and helps reduce the hours students spend on screen, Anderson said.
“Right now, students are online most of the day. We’d like to reduce that time giving students more time during the day to process and collaborate, and also to have interactions with their peers eventually,” Anderson explained.
H-F will increase the number of students on campus from one-quarter to one-half at some point, she said.
Safety measures will be taken, including self-certification health surveys. Temperature checks will be done when students enter the building and masks must be worn throughout the day, the principal told board members. The district will follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines.
Plexiglass barriers will be constructed around teachers’ desks and common spaces, such as the principal’s office. Classroom desks will be marked so that students know which desk to use to meet the 6-foot social distancing guideline. Passing periods will be amended to work through social distancing protocols.
“A return to in-person is what everybody would want to do,” Superintendent Von Mansfield said, but noted currently “there’s nothing that would allow us to come back in full, and when January rolls around we may still be remote if those (COVID-19 infection) numbers don’t drop.”
The suburban Cook County infection rate is 15.6% as of Nov. 18. State guidelines say the number should be below 8% for a safe return to schools.