Students at Cary School District 26 will switch to a hybrid learning model starting Oct. 19, after starting the school year fully remote because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school board for the 2,500-student district approved the move during a meeting Monday night. The plan the district will move to is the same one developed by a district task force and approved by the school board in July.
The hybrid model received the task force's "full support" and is the one that best balanced the safety needs of our students and staff while providing in-person instruction to meet the academic needs of our students,” Superintendent Brian Coleman said in a letter to parents posted on the district's website.
The district can move forward with its hybrid model plan based on county-wide metrics put together by the McHenry County Department of Health, Coleman said.
These metrics were released publicly by the health department last week.
The metrics identified by the health department focus on four areas: the county’s incidence rate, or the total number of new confirmed cases each day divided by the total county population times 100,000; the positivity rate; hospitalizations connected to COVID-19 over the last seven days; and the weekly count of new cases.
To move to a hybrid learning model, the framework recommends the county see an incidence rate between 7 and 14 cases per 100,000 people per day, a positivity rate between 5 and 8% and hospitalizations and the weekly case count stable or decreasing.
Under District 26's plan, students will be split into two groups, with priority given to placing siblings in the same group.
They will attend in-person instruction at school on one day, followed by remote learning on the second day, according to the reopening plan posted on the district’s website. This will work out to each student having two fixed in-person days, two fixed remote learning days and one day a week that alternates.
Families will be told which group their students are in by Oct. 9, according to district communication.
A survey was sent out to families to pick their learning model, with choices due Friday. They will need to stick with either the remote learning or hybrid model until winter break starts on Dec. 17.
In order to offer both a hybrid program and a fully remote one, a student’s teacher may change, and some remote learning classes may need to be combined with students from another school, according to the reopening plan.
Whether they are in-person or learning remotely, daily attendance and engagement will be expected of students, according to the plan.
Schools will teach and reinforce washing hands, avoiding contact with one's eyes, nose, and mouth, and covering coughs and sneezes among students and staff, according to district communication. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout school buildings for students and staff to use, and face masks will be required at all times in the school building.
To facilitate greater social distancing, school building capacity will be reduced to 50% of the students normally assigned there. Signs will be placed in highly visible locations to reinforce social distancing and safety precautions. If students or staff display or describe COVID-19 symptoms, staff is instructed to call the Health Office and refer the student for further assessment.
Those with these symptoms tied to COVID-19 will be isolated and sent home with a recommendation to see their health care provider, according to the school reopening plan.
“Although this is the plan that will be recommended that the district move forward with, we must also be prepared to revert back to our fully remote plan for all students should there be a significant increase in the pandemic and we are unable to meet the county metrics,” Coleman said in his letter to parents. “Thank you again for your continued understanding, patience and support as we work through these challenging times together.”