By Bob Skolnik
Reacting to a high rate of positive tests for the coronavirus in the village of Lyons, the superintendent of Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 has changed gears and decided to start school remotely next month.
Two weeks ago the district had announced on its website that it would start with hybrid model in which students went to class in person twice a week.
But a positivity rate of 11 percent of those taking coronavirus tests in Lyons has convinced Superintendent Kristopher Rivera that it would be better for students to attend school remotely for at least the first six weeks.
"While we know the best learning takes place in person, there are lives at stake," Rivera said at the July 28 meeting of the District 103 Board of Education when he announced the switch to 100-percent remote learning.
The 11-percent positivity rate in Lyons of those tested for the presence of the coronavirus compares to a 6-percent positivity rate in Brookfield.
The first day of school for District 103 students will be Aug. 21, although teachers will report to work on Aug. 13 to prepare for the school year.
Rivera said the remote learning plan this year will be more rigorous and interactive than the remote learning that took place in spring after schools closed their doors in March. It will feature daily interaction between teachers and their classes for about 2.5 hours and will include more time for individual and group work.
"We're prepared to be much more interactive," Rivera said. "There is not going to be packages sent home. This is going to be much more engaging."
Although students will be working remotely, teachers apparently will be expected to instruct from their classrooms. They will apparently be required to be in their buildings for five hours a day, although district administrators are meeting with the teachers union to work out the precise details.
"Preliminarily we're going to have them teach from the building," Rivera said.
Requiring teachers to work from the schools could cause difficulties for teachers who have school-age children of their own, who might also be attending schools in districts that are doing remote learning.
"Every school district has different plans," said teachers union President Toni Jackman during the public comment period of the school board meeting. "We have teachers who, their children who are not old enough to be on their own are also going to be on a different schedule than them. What are they going to do with those kids? That's a concern for teachers."
Some special-needs students will be allowed to attend school in person. English language learners and homeless students will also be allowed to attend school in person if they need to do so.
Rivera said every student in District 103 will be given a device -- most will be Chromebooks -- to help with remote learning.
For now, Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 and LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 are sticking with the hybrid models they announced for the new school year, with students attending school for half days.
Riverside-Brookfield High School, Lyons Township High School, Riverside Elementary School District 96 and Komarek School are expected to announce their reopening plans soon.