Local school districts have begun announcing their plans for what school will look like in the fall and most, possibly all, districts seem to be opting for a hybrid plan that blends in-person and remote learning amidst a continuing pandemic.

State guidelines requiring social distancing of students make it difficult for normal classes with all students in attendance. Students and staff will be required to wear face masks almost all the time, except when eating lunch, when they are inside school buildings

Lyons Township High School, like most school districts, is deciding between a hybrid model combining in-person attendance and remote learning. If LTHS chooses the hybrid approach, the student body will be split into two groups by the first letter of their last name. 

One group will attend their first- through third-period classes on Monday and Thursday mornings. On Tuesdays and Fridays that group will attend their afternoon classes. 

Conversely the other group will attend afternoon classes on Mondays and Thursdays and morning classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Wednesday would be a remote learning day, with custodians giving the two LTHS campuses a deep cleaning.

“We can’t open as normal,” said LTHS Superintendent Tim Kilrea, who said the school board will likely make a final decision in early August. 

LTHS also is pushing back the start of the school year a couple of days making the first day of school Aug. 20 instead of Aug. 17.

School administrators acknowledge that hybrid plans that mix in-person and remote are not perfect, but say that they are the best they can do under the circumstances.

“No plan is a good plan,” Kilrea said.

Administrators say their first priority is the health and safety of students and staff. They also acknowledge that remote learning, as done last spring, is far from perfect.

“We know that fourth quarter wasn’t ideal,” said Riverside-Brookfield High School Principal Hector Freytas.

RBHS school board President Wes Smithing agreed.

“Kids learn better in classrooms,” Smithing said at the District 208 school board meeting on July 14. “I think we found that out pretty clearly.”

The half-day plan for LTHS will cost more money, as busses will have to take kids to and from school twice a day. Kilrea said he did not have an estimate of how much the additional cost would be, but he said that some of the bussing costs could be recouped if fall sports are cancelled. He noted that field trips will be eliminated.

Student shifts in D103

In Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 most students will go to school twice a week. Students will be split into two groups. One group will go to school Mondays and Thursdays and the other group will go Tuesdays and Fridays. 

Only special education students and students learning English as a second language will attend school in person on Wednesdays, according to a video posted on the district website. 

During the time the students are not in school they will be doing remote learning. Parents who are not comfortable sending their children to school will have the option of signing up for a completely remote-learning option.

RBHS survey favors half days

Riverside-Brookfield High School is expected to announce its plans for fall by no later than Aug. 3. School will start at RBHS on Aug. 17. 

RBHS is likely to also open with a hybrid model. The school is surveying students, parents and staff to get their opinions. The survey offers three choices — a late start option with a shorter school day, going to school for half days or going to school every other day.

The half-day option, with half the students attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, is the most popular option with all three groups, with 57.3 percent of students who responded favoring that option, as did 48.4 percent of staff and 37.3 percent of parents. 

That option would also make lunch easier to handle, as morning students would likely be given a cold sack lunch to take home with them. With the state mandating groups of no more than 50 gathering in a single room, sack lunches to go obviates the need for students to gather in the cafeteria.

D96 to announce plan Aug. 5

Riverside Elementary School District 96 has also been surveying parents. Although a plurality of parents prefer a return to a traditional school day, the district is likely to adopt some type of hybrid plan. 

The district expects to announce its plan at a special meeting of the District 96 school board on Aug. 5. 

In a survey filled out by more than 80 percent of District 96 families, 42.4 percent of parents favored preferred a return to a traditional full school day, while 21.7 percent preferred to have students attend school on alternate days.

About 15 percent preferred a shortened school day, and 14 percent preferred all remote learning, with about 7 percent favoring half-day attendance.

District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye said whatever kind of hybrid option the district chooses, it will also offer a 100-percent remote option for families who don’t want to send their children back to school.

D95 backing off regular classes?

Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 had been the only area school district planning to return to a regular school day, but now that could be changing. 

The District 95 school board scheduled a special meeting for July 21 after the Landmark’s press time, and Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said he couldn’t comment on the district’s plans prior the special meeting.

Komarek still forming plan

Komarek School in North Riverside will not decide on its plans for the next school year until probably early August.

“We are still in the planning process,” said new Komarek District 94 Superintendent Todd Fitzgerald. “We probably won’t know until probably the end of the month or the beginning of August.”

Hybrid likely in D102

LaGrange-Brookfield School District 102, which includes the southwestern portion of Brookfield, will announce its plans for the 2020-21 school year on July 23. Superintendent Kyle Schumacher said that plan will probably include a hybrid option as well as an all remote-learning option. 

School administers know that whatever they decide, they will not please everyone,

“We’re not going to make everybody happy with whatever model we select,” said RBHS District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, who added that he expects 10 to 20 percent of students not to come to school for in-person learning.