By Bob Skolnik
Lyons Township High School, which serves the southern half of Brookfield, has unveiled plans to switch next month to a hybrid learning model where students will attend school in person twice a week.
LTHS students have been attending school remotely since the school year began in August. Students will begin attending classes in person during the week of Oct. 19, which marks the start of the school year's second quarter.
"We're excited," said Jennifer Bialobok, the community relations coordinator at LTHS. "We're happy to get kids back in the building."
Under the plan, students would be divided into two groups based on the first letter of their last name. Students whose last names begin with the letters A through L will attend school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and learn remotely the rest of the week.
Students whose last names begin with the letter M through Z will attend classes in person on Thursdays and Fridays and learn remotely the rest of the week. On Wednesdays all students will attend class remotely.
There will be four class periods of 65 minutes every day but Wednesday. On Wednesdays students will attend all eight class periods for 35 minutes each. The school will undergo a deep cleaning every Wednesday.
When students are learning remotely they will participate in the same classroom sessions that their classmates in the other group are experiencing in person.
Bus service will be provided before and after school. The in-person school day will begin at 9:15 a.m. and end at 12:45 or 1:50 p.m., depending on which period the student has lunch.
No hot lunches will be served at school, but students who want to stay in the building during their lunch period will be able to go to socially distanced places on campus to eat a lunch that they brought from home.
Students who don't want to return to school in person, or whose parents won't allow them to, will be able to continue to attend all of their classes remotely. Students who are learning remotely will participate in the same classes as students who are attending in person.
"We believe that transitioning to a hybrid/remote plan will provide additional opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-teacher connections," LTHS District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea wrote in a letter to parents and guardians announcing the plan on Sept. 24. "In addition, access to labs and school workspaces is also becoming increasingly critical for successful instruction and learning."
Students will not be assigned lockers and will have to carry all their books and belongings with them while they are attending classes in person.
The schedule also includes time at the beginning and end of each school day for students to interact, in person or remotely, with counselors and social workers.
A number of health and safety precautions, many now commonplace in schools, will be in place. Everyone inside the building will be required to wear face coverings, and all students will be required to complete a symptom screener before entering the school.
Desks in classrooms will be placed at least six feet apart. Bottles of hand sanitizers will be placed in all classrooms, and hallways will be marked with directional arrows. Most staircases will be one-way only.
If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, that person and others who came in close contact with that person will have to quarantine.
Kilrea said the school's experience with the small numbers of students who have been coming to the LTHS' two campuses for sports or additional services during remote learning has made school officials more confident of being able to have students attend classes safely.
"Starting to see that we can do these things in smaller numbers, that helps," Kilrea said.
Kilrea also said that the reduction in positive COVID tests and cases in the area also influenced the decision to return to some degree of in-person school attendance.