District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera

While most schoolchildren across the area are now attending school in person for at least part of the day, one local school district has apparently decided to not to have any in person school this entire school year. That district is Lyons-Brookfield School District 103.

District 103 Superintendent Kristofer Rivera said in a video posted on the district’s website on March 19 that the need to bring students to the schools for in-person, state-mandated testing in April and May will prevent the district from offering in-person instruction this year. As a result, the district will be sticking with the 100-percent remote learning model it has offered since the start of the school year last fall. 

“We just could not coordinate all of this at once with the scheduling and provide education to the students while maintaining the safety protocols,” Rivera said. “It just had to have too many factors in place that could not be coordinated.”

District 103 students will come to school next month only to take the state-mandated tests, but all teaching will still be done remotely.

Other area districts face the same challenges but are figuring out how to manage the state testing while offering at least some in-person school for those who want it. Riverside Elementary School District 96 is switching to a modified full-day schedule in April while also doing the state testing.

District 103 school board member Marge Hubacek said Rivera did not discuss the decision to continue with remote learning for the rest of the year with the school board. 

Hubacek said that while Rivera may have discussed the issue with school board president Jorge Torres, he did not discuss the matter with entire school board.

“Every other school district has gone back [to some in-person school],” Hubacek said. “I don’t think they met with the parents. You know, I don’t have a kid in the school, but I hear from parents and there are many who feel we can go back safely now.”

Infection rates are still high in Lyons with a weekly new COVID-19 case rate of 114.4 cases per 100,000 during the week of March 11, according to information posted on the District 103 website. A case rate of more than 100 per 100,000 is considered substantial, and the district’s target new case rate is less than 50 per 100,000. 

No ZIP code served by District 103 currently has a new case rate of less than 50 per 100,000, although the March 11 new case rate in Brookfield was 58.5 per 100,000. Positive test results have gone down in recent weeks to 6.15 percent in Lyons and just 2.52 percent in Brookfield. The district has been targeting a positivity rate of less than 5 percent.

Other school districts in areas hard hit by COVID are returning to some in person school.

South Berwyn District 100 and North Berwyn District 98 began offering hybrid models of instruction last month, with students coming to school in person for part of the day. Cicero School District 99 started offering some in-person school this week.

Recently, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the federal Center for Disease Control have reduced the social distancing guidelines in schools from six feet to three feet, and some studies have indicated that schools do not seem to be a focus of COVID spread.

Many District 103 teachers have been vaccinated through a site for educators at Morton High School, and all of the teaching staff should be vaccinated by the end of March.

Former school board member Joanne Schaeffer, who was defeated in the 2019 election after serving on the District 103 school board for nearly 40 years, says that her great granddaughter, a fifth-grader at Lincoln School in Brookfield, has been losing interest in school and is tired of remote learning. Schaeffer blames the leadership of the district for the failure to offer any in person school this year.

“This is what happens when politicians take over and administrators don’t keep children at the top of the list,” Schaeffer said.