South moves into Step 3 hybrid model

Emily Blumberg and Ella Naugle

On Oct. 5, District 225 will move to Step 3 of the reopening plan — a hybrid schedule — making the district one of the first public school districts on the North Shore to do so. The school will first begin phasing into the hybrid model by allowing students to attend in-person classes based on last name and grade level, keeping attendance below 25 percent, Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel said.

The transition into Step 3 offers students the opportunity to attend classes twice over the course of two weeks, Fagel said. Every day, a different grade level will return to the building — half of the grade in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. On Oct. 20, District 225 plans to fully implement hybrid learning, and all students who choose to participate will attend their morning or afternoon classes daily.

The optional hybrid schedule is organized to let students attend all classes over the course of four days, alternating mornings and afternoons depending on last name, Fagel said. Students will be split into two sections, the first being students whose last name begins with A-L and the second section being students whose last names begin with M-Z.

All classes will be 80 minutes long and will include a 95- minute lunch break. The extended lunch will provide more time for students participating in the hybrid to get home from in-person morning classes, or drive to school for their in-person afternoon classes. The 95 minute lunch will allow teachers to prepare for their afternoon classes, Fagel said.

“Every student who participates in the hybrid [beginning Oct. 20] would come to school everyday but it would alternate between morning and afternoon,” Fagel said. “You’d get to experience all of your classes in-person over the course of four days.”

A number of mandatory health checks have been implemented for Step 2, and will continue throughout the duration of Step 3, Fagel said. Sophomore Alyssa Yagelski appreciates the measures that the school has taken to ensure the safety of those entering the building.

“They are doing temperature checks and Google surveys [asking] if you have been in contact with anybody [with Covid-19],” Yagelski said. “I think those two things are really helpful to try to keep everybody safe, as well as wearing masks. I think those precautions are very good and should continue.”

In spite of the approval of Step 3, a rally organized by “Reopen Illinois Schools” was held on Sept. 23, advocating for full-time, in-person learning.

South parent Cathy Condon attended the rally because she feels her children are not receiving an adequate education. Condon hopes the District 225 Board of Education will vote to move to Step 4. However, the Illinois Department of Public Health has stated that certain metrics need to be met within the state before continuing on to full-time, in-person learning.

“Learning on a computer is not effective as [people] are trying to push,” Condon said. “Being in school is all around a better environment, it’s a better opportunity for [students] to grow, to make friends, to be able to socialize, to learn, to feel a connection and to really enjoy school.”

Senior Colin Morse decided to speak at the rally because he feels it is important for students to go back to school. He hopes the administration will recognize students’ wishes to go back to in-person learning.

“I think it is important for kids to go back to school, the online classroom is not replicating in-person learning,” Morse said. “I’m hoping it shows the administration and the Board of Education how strongly people want to go back to school.”

Given that participating in in-person classes remains optional for all students, PE Teacher Meaghan Fastert explained that she aims to provide equal learning opportunities for all of her students, whether they choose to learn from home or at South.

“Our department will be discussing [lesson plans] before we begin Phase 3,” Fastert said. “As a teacher, I would hope to keep the lessons similar if not the same, so a student who chooses to stay home will receive the same level of instruction and have similar benefits in that pursuit.”

Some members of the District 225 community continue to harbor doubts about this next step in reopening. Both personal safety concerns and the logistics of Step 3 worry Science Teacher Despina Mandarino.

“The bottom line is with my underlying health issues, I am very scared to come back to school,” Mandarino said. “In addition, it will be a challenge to teach students on Zoom and students in the classroom at the same time. I will have to evaluate the situation once I am back in class.”

Superintendent Dr. Charles Johns is proud of the effort shown by staff to create the best school year possible for students. He believes those who worked on the reopening plan have created an opportunity for students to safely attend in-person classes this fall.

“The Learning and Operational Plan for the 2020-21 School Year is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication by many members of the Glenbrook staff,” Johns said. “After conferring with a wide range of stakeholders and experts, it is our best approach to bringing students and staff back to our schools in a safe, thoughtful, and intelligent manner.”