Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Barrington-area school districts pause hybrid learning plans
Many school districts in Lake County's borders, including large ones based in Libertyville and Barrington, are pausing ongoing hybrid learning models or holding off on planned starts.
The decisions made at board meetings or shared with parents Tuesday were in response to the Lake County Health Department's finding of a "substantial" community transmission of COVID-19.
Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 and Barrington Area Unit District 220 took what leaders called unfortunate but necessary steps.
"I have significant concerns about the current data," District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said Tuesday during a school board meeting. He announced the hybrid model, which started Monday, would pause for 10 calendar days beginning Oct. 28 and not resume until Nov. 9 at the earliest.
Also Tuesday, more than 1,000 people tuned into an emergency District 128 meeting via Zoom, where the board voted 6-1 to delay the debut of its hybrid model for two weeks.
"We're not being asked to do the easy thing here. We're being asked to do the right thing," board President Pat Groody said.
The first day of hybrid in-school learning for District 128 students who chose that method will be Nov. 12 rather than Oct. 29.
Elsewhere, the single-school Mundelein High School District 120 and its feeder district Mundelein Elementary 75, which share a superintendent, and Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn District 73 also delayed hybrid openings with students in schools.
District 73 Superintendent Pete Hannigan said all students will continue remote learning until further notice. He said he'd report on updated data and impact on the start of hybrid instruction at the Nov. 12 school board meeting.
Libertyville Elementary District 70 is considering similar action but is awaiting data from Wednesday and Thursday before making a determination.
Both districts 70 and 73 had been scheduled to start hybrid models.
District 128 has 3,400 students in high schools in Libertyville and Vernon Hills, and District 220 educates about 9,000 students at Barrington High School, two middle, eight elementary schools and an early learning center in four ZIP codes.
In information released Tuesday, Lake County health officials said transmission has been in the "substantial" category for seven consecutive days with rates of new cases not seen since spring.
It recommended all public and private K-12 schools in the county move to virtual learning to protect students, staff members and families and to slow the spread of the virus.
School districts are advised to remain in the current learning mode for at least seven days before switching to another one.
"Because you have to watch trends," Harris said.
Barring a directive from the state school superintendent or change to Phase 3 of Restore Illinois, the decision to offer virtual, hybrid or in-person learning is determined by local school districts.
Harris said the numbers left him no choice. As of Monday, the average for all four ZIP codes District 220 reaches exceeded the benchmark 200 cases per 100,000 for seven consecutive days. And for the first time, each individual ZIP code broke the barrier.
"It continues to go in the wrong direction," he said of metric. "I'm majorly concerned about this, what's happening in our communities and all around us."
Generally, the areas associated with district ZIP codes are Barrington, Fox River Grove, Carpentersville and Hoffman Estates.
Harris said he decided last week to keep Sunny Hill Elementary School in Carpentersville on remote learning because of the high risk in that area.
Both District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea and Groody emphasized the delay doesn't mean a change in the directive approved by a split board vote Oct. 5 to proceed with hybrid learning.
"We're committed to getting the kids back in school," Groody said. "Please be patient and please be supportive of the effort."
District 70 Superintendent Matt Barbini told parents that to change from one learning model to another, incidence rates must be within a threshold for at least seven consecutive days.
If the 14 per 100,000 rate continues for the 60048 ZIP code Wednesday and Thursday, Barbini said, the hybrid reopening plan will be put on hold and District 70 will be placed in virtual learning for at least 10 days while rates are monitored.
If results fall in the 7 to 14 per 100,000 category, it will continue with reopening plans and welcome K-1 students back Monday.
The health department recommended hybrid learning once the county returns to a "moderate" (7 to 14 incidents per 100,000) level for seven consecutive days.