Even as St. Charles High School students prepare to return to school next week as part of a limited hybrid learning model, many community members at Tuesday’s St. Charles Unit District 300 board meeting expressed frustration with the lack of progress in expanding in-person learning.
About 15 people took part in a “Learning is better in person” rally before the board meeting at Thompson Middle School. Several spoke to the board to plea for more in-person learning.
While high school students have been fully remote since the school year began because of the COVID-19 pandemic, District 303 elementary school students have been learning in person. Middle-school students have been learning in a hybrid model.
“While I’m not blaming anyone for this pandemic, I am, however, blaming you for your response to this pandemic,” Emily Leonard, a 2020 graduate of St. Charles East, said to the board members. “I’m crying out to you so that you do not treat the Class of 2021 the way that you’ve treated the Class of 2020.”
After St. Charles East and St. Charles North students participate in in-person orientation this Thursday and Friday, they’ll begin the hybrid learning model next week.
Half the students will attend in-person two days a week and attend four of their eight periods each day. The other half of the students will attend two other days for four periods a day, and the fifth day of a given week will be remote for all students.
The plan emerged from September’s Learning and Teaching Committee meeting, although it’s a limited version of the hybrid plan offered before the school year began. In the original plan, half the students would be in-person every other day and attend all their classes on those days.
District 303 parent Shannon Sullivan, who organized Tuesday’s rally and has two students at St. Charles North, is among the many disappointed in the upcoming hybrid model.
“I would like to still push forward to get back to that full hybrid they were offering at the beginning of the school year,” she said. “It’s like we’re getting a watered-down version.”
When asked by board members on Tuesday about future updates, District 303 Superintendent Jason Pearson pointed to November with an eye on planning for second semester.
Pearson said a recent survey indicated the number of District 303 families wanting in-person learning dropped from 87 percent to 77 percent compared to a previous survey. He said the survey will be updated in early November.
“There is an expectation that there might be a change in what’s happening with the virus over the next few weeks, in particular when flu season begins,” Pearson said. “We’ll be curious to see, number one, do we have any outbreaks at school? And, number two, are families having more reservations about sending students to school based on what’s happening.”