With COVID-19 positivity rates holding steady at levels not seen since early last fall, with vaccinations ramping up and opening up to more and more people and with the state on the verge of entering a “bridge” phase that would expand large gatherings, there are naturally calls from beleaguered parents and students to get classroom back open full time.

This is completely understandable. School staff have had the opportunity to receive vaccines since mid-January and many, many of them have taken the opportunity to do just that. 

School officials who have traced student outbreaks largely have been able to demonstrate that students are being infected outside of the classroom, and in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside, we don’t know of any student-to-student transmission, though that’s not to say there haven’t been any at all.

So, why isn’t every classroom in the area open full time to students? 

We’re not inside the schools making those decisions, so we’re inclined to give administrators and school boards the benefit of the doubt when they say the general public — and even parents chomping at the bit to get the little ones out of the dining room and into schools – might not understand the complexities of bringing everyone back.

Of the seven school districts the Landmark covers – five elementary and two high schools – you’ll see roughly the entire spectrum of decision-making as the 2020-21 academic year winds down.

Riverside District 96 is moving to a modified full-time, in-person model in April. Riverside-Brookfield High School expanded in-person days in March, but like most of the other districts we cover, they’ll stick with a hybrid learning model, it appears, through the end of the school year. Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 has never had and will not return to in-person instruction at all this school year.

Not all school districts are the same. They vary in size, demographically, in governance and in administrative and faculty makeup. They have navigated through two school years during a pandemic, and by and large have done so admirably, if not perfectly.

This school year is almost over, and the focus rightly needs to be on next fall and getting classrooms open safely for students, faculty, administrators and the general public. The local school boards are in the best position to know just how difficult it would be to flip the switch to “normal” school.

And the fact is, we’re not in “normal” yet, however much we’d like to be.

HOBO’s shot in the arm

From Venture to Kmart to HOBO, the big box at the end the Forest Park Mall has always offered practical goods and a little aspiration.

Starting Friday the vacant store will offer life-saving vaccines when it opens as a massive — soon to be 2,000-plus shots a day massive — COVID vaccination site. It will be operated by an array of government bodies, including the state and Cook County government. The Illinois National Guard will administer the program. 

Local residents do not get precedence for shots, but they have an equal shot and great convenience. With the state opening up vaccines to more and more people – and to all adults in mid-April — this is the moment.