By Bob Skolnik
Over the next two weeks, more than two thirds of Riverside-Brookfield High School students will return to school in person one day a week as it implements a hybrid learning plan, which school officials rolled out last week in anticipation of the District 208 school board formally adopting on Oct. 13
Under the plan, students have the choice of attending school one day a week – that increases to two days a week next month -- or continuing to attend all classes remotely.
Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said that about 68 percent of students have chosen the hybrid model while 32 percent have chosen to continue to attend all classes remotely.
Freshmen will return to school in person during the week of Oct. 19. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will return their classrooms during the week of Oct. 26.
If all goes well, students begin attending school in person twice a week during the week of Nov. 9.
Under the one-day-a-week model, only about 25 percent of the enrollment will be in the building on any one day. Under the two-day-a-week model, about 50 percent of students will be in the building.
"This is a process and the first step of the process is getting students back on campus with teachers in the classrooms," Skinkis said. "We're doing it in chunks, which is why we're starting out at 25 percent."
Students will normally attend school remotely on Mondays, with one quarter of the enrollment attending school in person on the other days of the week. The day on which a student attends class in person depends on the first letter of the student's last name.
The students in school will be in the same classroom as their teachers in all but a handful of cases. Skinkis said about five teachers have been given permission, because of health reasons, to teach their classes from home while a substitute teacher maintains order and helps out in the classroom.
On the days when students don't attend in person, they will view the classes live on Zoom or Google Meet. The teacher in the classroom will be continue to use the virtual platform as will the students, using their school-issued Chromebooks to hear what other students participating in the class remotely have to say.
"Seventy-five percent of the students will be at home learning remotely, so the lesson will be gauged for that 75 percent," Skinkis said. "The idea is that the teachers will continue to provide the virtual instruction on the virtual platform and the students will participate but be on campus."
Getting students back in the building is an important first step, Skinkis said.
"What this is also providing students is an opportunity to get some normalcy back," Skinkis said.
Most RBHS teachers have been providing remote instruction from their classrooms during the first quarter, so this will not be a big change for them, except for the presence of some students.
"Obviously this is going to new for everybody, but I do think it will be more interactive than what people are concerned about," Skinkis said.
Under the new schedule, in-person classes will run from 8 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. with a five-minute break between periods. All seven periods will meet every day and each class period will run for 35 minutes, down from the current 40 minutes.
On Mondays when all students attend class remotely, classes will be 40 minutes long and there will be 10 minutes between periods.
No lunch will be served at the school. Teachers will be required to hold virtual office hours every afternoon from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m.
Since the schedule is very similar to the current remote schedule and even hybrid students will attend many classes remotely, the schedule will allow the school to easily shift back to fully remote learning should that become necessary.
"This model allows us to remain fluid," Skinkis said.
Since every classroom session will be also broadcast live on Zoom or Google Meet, a student who doesn't feel up to attending in person, he or she can stay home and participate remotely.
"We don't want kids to come to school if they're feeling sick or experiencing symptoms," Skinkis said. "It provides them the opportunity to get the same lesson at home."