Students at Riverside-Brookfield High School are likely to have the option of attending class in person more often beginning March 15.
The administration told the school board last week that they are making plans to allow students to come to the building four days a week during the fourth quarter as the rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop throughout the state and suburban Cook County.
“The numbers are going in the right direction,” said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.
As of Feb. 11, the rolling average COVID positivity rate for the RBHS area was down to 3.54 percent.
Since the beginning of January, students have had the option of going to school in person two days a week. In-person attendance at RBHS has averaged slightly more than 200 students or a week or just over 25 percent of the enrollment as most students have chosen to attend school remotely from home.
RBHS is preparing classrooms to accommodate the increased student presence that could occur if more students choose to attend school in person in the fourth quarter. The school day for in-person learning would still run from 8 a.m. to 12:35 p.m.
“Currently we’re working with maintenance and staff to set up over 51 classrooms to ensure desks are socially distanced when possible,” Principal Hector Freytas told the school board that their Feb. 9 meeting.
Freytas said that all classrooms might not be able to space students six feet apart, noting the recommendation is a guideline, not a mandate. Overflow classrooms will also be set up if more students appear for a class than can safely fit into one classroom.
The school is sending out a survey to families this month to get an idea of how many students would come to school in person in the fourth quarter if they are allowed classroom attendance four days a week.
Students carrying grades of D or F, as well as many special needs students, can already attend class four days a week.
Freytas said that even if RBHS moves to a four day a week in-person option, students can still attend classes remotely.
“Remote learning has been very successful for many,” Freytas said.
LTHS sticking with current hybrid plan
Officials at Lyons Township High School, which serves the southern half of Brookfield, will reconvene a committee to look at how best to deliver instruction, but they have no current plans to change their current twice-a-week, half-day, in-person hybrid option.
About 54 percent of LTHS students have been attending classes in person, about double the number of the RBHS students doing so. LTHS uses a block schedule where only four class periods meet each day, while at RBHS all seven class periods meet daily, typically for only 35 minutes.
Scott Eggerding, the LTHS director of curriculum and instruction, said it would be difficult to move to full-day or every day school attendance for the remainder of the current school year.
Full-day instruction would be difficult because the state recommends that no more than 50 people gather in one space, making lunch service very difficult.
Eggerding said the school is focusing on how to accommodate state-mandated SAT testing for juniors and seniors in April as well as Advanced Placement exams in May. He questioned how many more students would attend class in person if given the option.
“Compared to other high schools, we’ve had fairly good turnout, more than 50 percent of our students coming, but there’s a large number that aren’t,” Eggerding said. “If you’re not willing to come two days a week, I’m wondering why you might change your mind and come four days a week instead.”
RBHS teachers receive vaccines
Fifty teachers at RBHS got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last week as a number of spots quickly became available through the Pillars Community Health social service agency in LaGrange.
Skinkis said he got a call at about 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 that 20 doses of the vaccine were available and word quickly went out to RBHS staff. Twenty rushed over to LaGrange to get their shots and 30 more did so the next day.
“We’re on pace, hopefully, to get all staff first doses by the end of the month,” Skinkis said.