School board unanimously approves hybrid reopening plan in Downers Grove amid COVID-19 concerns

Liz Nagy Image
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Downers Grove school debate: hybrid reopening plan approved
District 99 in Downers Grove says they are moving forward with a hybrid plan of in-person and remote learning.

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- The debate over returning to school has led to threats from some people in one suburban district, according to Community District 99's superintendent in Downers Grove.

That school board held a meeting Monday night to hear from all sides of the issue.

Desperation to return to the classroom has pushed students and parents to rally the public's support for some kind of in-person learning for the upcoming school year.

"I at least want to be able to get tutored if I need help and if we're going in one day I'm fine with that," said senior Chloe Sheppard.

"I think at school, if they respect their teachers and wash their hands and wear their masks and teachers are staying the appropriate distance, it will be OK," parent Becky Rheintgen said.

Tensions were high at a Downers Grove school board meeting as they adopted a hybrid learning plan for next year.

But in the middle of a global pandemic, that's far from a universal opinion.

"I'm not paranoid and not in a bubble," said one teacher who spoke out. "I'm willing to work day and night, disheartened by narrative that teachers are selfish. I believe e-learning is the best way."

"The risk is too high," said another public speaker. "Both of my children are afraid to go back to school. Please, lets remote learn until it is safer."

District 99 says they are moving forward with a hybrid plan of in-person and remote learning.

As of now, the plan on the table is to start school on August 17.

Students will be split alphabetically and report to school, fully masked, two mornings a week.

Then, all students will learn remotely for two weeks before resuming a hybrid schedule September 8 conditions permitting, officials say.

"We've gone to extreme measures to make sure people can be safe," Superintendent Hank Thiele said. "We, as school leaders, are trusting the health department."

Students who simply don't feel safe returning to school can choose to learn from home as the district scrambles to accommodate dozens of teachers who may teach from home with in-classroom assistants.

"Let's be clear, this school year will not be like any other school year," Thiele said.

The school board unanimously approved a hybrid plan Monday night.