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Huntley School District 158 releases reopening plan for 2020-21 academic year

Students can opt out of in-person classes, choose remote learning

Huntley High School Principal Marcus Bellin greets students in a line of cars arriving to pick up their graduation materials June 3 at Huntley High School.
Huntley High School Principal Marcus Bellin greets students in a line of cars arriving to pick up their graduation materials June 3 at Huntley High School.

Huntley School District 158 students in pre-K through sixth grade will have the option for in-person traditional learning five days a week, while students in seventh grade, eighth grade and high school will operate under a hybrid style, blending in-person and remote learning, when the 2020-21 school year begins.

According to District 158’s Return to School plan released late Thursday, students in any grade can opt out of in-person learning and choose a remote learning option.

Families were to be sent an email with a link for a remote learning opt-in form Friday, and responses are due by July 21. Those who do not opt in or do not respond will be given an in-person, traditional schedule and placement.

Seventh grade, eighth grade and high school students who return in a hybrid style will have alternating schedules of “A” and “B” days. About half will attend on “A” days and half will attend on “B” days.

Students participating in remote learning will have a structured daily schedule and be given the opportunity to interact with their teachers live, with lessons delivered live via video streaming. Grades and attendance will follow traditional protocol.

“The district is making a substantial investment to outfit all classrooms with equipment and software to stream live instruction with two-way, audio-visual interaction,” according to the plan. “Students attending remotely will have a virtual experience closely replicating the in-person experience, including participating in live discussion.”

Students, staff members and visitors will be required to self-certify that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms when attending school. This may be completed by a parent or guardian before the student arrives at school. Students without a completed screening will be required to self-certify on-site or be screened for symptoms at school. The screening and certification process has yet to be fully released by the district.

Staff members will be required to complete four COVID-19-related training modules in addition to required yearly training modules.

For the first two weeks of school, both students and staff will receive safety education “to ensure that all are aware and capable of compliance with health and safety measures in place.” Lessons will be reinforced throughout the year.

As mandated by the Illinois State Board of Education, all students and staff will be required to wear a face mask at all times in school buildings – even when social distancing is maintained.

Face masks will not need to be worn outside, while eating or during band and physical education classes, which will be held outside whenever possible.

The district will provide students and staff members with reusable face masks and also maintain a supply of disposable face masks. Regular breaks will be scheduled in the morning and afternoon for fresh air and mask removal.

Families can submit documentation from a licensed health care provider to “outline circumstances that require a student not to weak a mask.” The use of face shields will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Classrooms will be configured to maximize social distancing, visual reminders and signage will be placed throughout the building, and the use of common spaces will be staggered whenever possible to minimize the number of individuals in an area.

In preschool and elementary school classrooms, students will remain in the same classroom group throughout the day, while students in middle school and high school classrooms will remain in the same group throughout the day when feasible. In middle school classrooms, teachers will rotate into classrooms rather than students rotating into different classrooms.

According to the plan, opportunities for student learning in music, art, physical education and explore will continue.

Buses can have a maximum of 50 people. Masks will be required while on buses, and seating charts and optimized routes will be used to maximize social distancing.

Lunch menus will be limited to pre-wrapped or in a grab-and-go style to decrease the amount of time students are in line and to decrease person-to-person contact. No buffet-style service will be offered. As needed, students may eat lunch in spaces other than the cafeteria to maintain social distancing. Spaces may include outdoor spaces, gyms, common areas, unoccupied classrooms and elementary homerooms.

Curbside meal pickup will be available at Heineman and Marlowe middle schools for families participating in remote learning.

Buildings will be sanitized using an electrostatic disinfectant machine nightly, while restrooms, hallways, cafeterias and high-touch common areas will be cleaned throughout the day. Buses will be disinfected throughout the day between morning and afternoon routes, and students and staff will use separate entrances for morning arrival and afternoon departure.

Sneeze guards and screens will be added in certain areas, common areas such as the cafeteria will have seating and tables spread out to maximize social distancing, and quarantine rooms will be set up in each school’s health service office.

According to the plan, there will be “increased fresh air in buildings via optimized [heating,ventilation and air conditioning] system refresh rate,” and windows will be open when possible. Additionally, interior doors will be left open when possible for increased airflow.

The district will install hand-sanitizing stations in every classroom and frequently visited areas. Lockers and locker rooms may not be available for use, and school supplies will not be shared between students and staff.

Water fountains will be turned off, but touchless water bottle fillers will be available. Restroom usage will be minimized when possible, with restroom breaks scheduled.

Students or staff members exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be referred to the school nurse for evaluation and placed in a quarantine room. For all confirmed or suspected cases, the McHenry County Department of Health will be consulted.

Potential responses include the temporary closing of the school, temporary closing or quarantine of a classroom, or temporary quarantine of individuals determined through contact tracing. The district will follow recommendations from the MCDH, Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding closures.

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