Classes are going to be run as close to normal during the first quarter at Riverside-Brookfield High School, except for one thing. They will be conducted virtually and everyone will be appearing on a screen.

At a special meeting Aug. 19 called in response to the abrupt decision by the administration last Friday to shift to 100-percent remote learning, the District 208 Board of Education unanimously approved a revised remote learning plan that significantly increases instructional time compared to the backup remote learning plan that developed over the summer.

The unanimous school board vote came just six days after the board approved a plan that had combined in-person and remote learning.

The new plan features the traditional seven-period class day, with each period meeting every day. Under the new plan, teachers will be expected to teach their classes virtually five days a week and students will be expected to be in attendance on their school issued Chromebooks.

Classes will be 40 minutes long every day. The plan offers nearly 24 hours of instructional time a week, four hours more instructional time per week than another option the board rejected.

Faculty will be expected to teach from their RBHS classrooms unless permission is granted to allow them to teach from home.

“Teachers should be on campus for remote learning with all their teaching tools at their disposal unless accommodations have been made,” said District 208 school board President Wes Smithing.

Remote learning this year will be more robust than the emergency remote learning that took place last spring, said Principal Hector Freytas. Last spring it was rare for teachers to teach a class in real time with their students. Grading was flexible and many students didn’t work very hard. Teachers and counselors were sometimes hard to reach.

“I take full responsibility for what happened in the fourth quarter,” Freytas said in a statement he made at the board meeting.

Freytas said dealing with the challenges of conducting school during a global pandemic has been the most difficult challenge of his professional career.

“COVID-19 has turned our world upside down, and we’re still trying to figure this out.” Freytas said. 

The school is hoping to allow small groups of students to come to school to attend classes virtually if they do not have internet access at home or if it would be easier for them to focus on school from the school building instead of at home. Teachers will be able to meet with small groups of students at the school, if they are willing to do so.

Dan Bonarigo, a math teacher and president of the Riverside Brookfield Education Association, the teachers’ union at the high school, said teachers are anxious to begin work.

“We have a very passionate and dedicated staff, and we’ve got the schedule and we’re going to do our absolute best to deliver some pretty great instruction and make connections with students,” Bonarigo said.