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Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 to switch to hybrid schedule Oct. 5

Speech pathologist Valerie Kinsella (left) uses a workbook teaching the proper way to wear a face mask to a kindergartener in the district's ASPIRE (Achieving Social Pragmatics and Individual Relationships Everywhere) Program during a mask desensitization lesson Thursday at South Elementary School in Crystal Lake.
Speech pathologist Valerie Kinsella (left) uses a workbook teaching the proper way to wear a face mask to a kindergartener in the district's ASPIRE (Achieving Social Pragmatics and Individual Relationships Everywhere) Program during a mask desensitization lesson Thursday at South Elementary School in Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 will go back to in-person education in a hybrid format starting Oct. 5, the school board decided Monday evening.

Students will physically go to school for in-person learning for four hours a day followed by one hour of remote learning, a learning model initially approved by the school board in July in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district had originally planned on moving to this hybrid model after three weeks of remote learning, but the decision to extend remote learning through at least Oct. 2 was made in August. Now, the district will definitely move to the hybrid model Oct. 5.

During a Monday meeting where Superintendent Kathy Hinz presented this hybrid model again, parents voiced displeasure at the remote learning model students had been under so far.

They described former A-students now struggling in class, “meltdowns” from younger children who get frustrated when they don’t understand a lesson and the stress their children feel from being “socially isolated.”

Board president Rob Fetzner also read a public comment submitted by someone who said COVID-19 is still “very much alive” and warned of an outbreak if students return.

“It is happening all over the country and as someone who is married to a District 47 teacher, I take the safety of students and the teachers very seriously,” the person said.

About 14% of parents responded to a survey asking how remote learning was going for the so far this year compared with the spring. Parents were asked to rate their responses on a sliding scale with 0 being no improvement, 50 being better than the spring and 100 meaning the experience exceeded expectations.

On average, families rated their remote learning experience so far this school year a 62 overall, according to survey results presented by Hinz Monday. On whether students’ academic needs were being met, families on average reported a 50 while whether their social-emotional needs were being met averaged a score of 40.

So far, 750 families have used the school desks lent by District 47, and buildings are in the process of starting virtual clubs.

One theme of the survey was that parents wanted hybrid or in-person learning in some fashion.

Both Fetzner and Hinz cautioned that while students would be back in the classroom under the hybrid schedule, it would not look like the normal school environment.

Students would be spaced 6 feet apart, signs would be posted in the hallways to as a reminder to maintain social distancing, and face masks will need to be worn in school buildings, even when a 6-foot distances can be maintained.

Staff, and parents on their children’s behalf, will need to certify before entering the school that they are COVID-19 symptom free.

The district is going to be following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois Department of Public Health and McHenry County Department of Health as it reopens, Fetzner said.

A draft version of the McHenry County health department’s new metrics, designed to help school districts decide when they should move to hybrid or in-person learning, shows that the county as a whole has reached the recommended thresholds for a hybrid educational model.

The framework looks at indicators including the area’s positivity rate, incidence rate, hospital admissions tied to COVID-19, the ability schools have to implement mitigation strategies, and the weekly count of new cases.

Fetzner urged people to be compassionate as District 47 makes the transition to hybrid learning and said teachers are working harder than they ever have. 

“Please take a breath before you send an angry email,” Fetzner said.

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