Chicago suburban students at Glenbrook, Hinsdale high school districts, Wheeling elementary schools return to in-person learning

WHEELING, Ill. (WLS) -- Thousands of Chicago suburban students returned to the classroom Monday, including in the Glenbrook, Hinsdale high school districts and elementary schools in Wheeling.

At Mark Twain Elementary School in Wheeling, students headed back into a physical classroom for the first time this school year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were not only greeted by the school mascot, but by temperature checks, too.

"I think it'll be really important to get them together learning together and be able to learn from each other and not just be on a muted square on a computer screen," said Mark Twain Elementary School Principal Dr. Alyssa Shlensky.

Dr. Shlensky said in School District 21, only kindergarteners and first graders returned Monday, with groups broken up into morning and afternoon groups to help social distancing.

"We want to prioritize that instruction for language arts and literacy as well as math and social emotional learning while they're in the building while the teacher can provide the most assistance to the kids."

At Joyce Kilmer Elementary School, classes are about half their normal size and split up into different sessions. Students all wear masks and their desks are spaced six feet apart. There are temperature checks on the way into the building as well.

"It's just good to have the kids back," said Superintendent Michael Connolly. "Remote learning has been so tough for everybody."

Hinsdale High School District 86 and Glenbrook High School District 225 also launched their own hybrid in-person learning plans Monday. Students are on rotating schedules to allow for more space. In Elmhurst, juniors and seniors at York High School went back for a half day.

"There's probably never been a time in history where students are that excited to go to school," said District 205 Superintendent Dave Moyer.

Colten Podgorski, 6, was among those heading into the modified classroom in Wheeling, with desks farther apart and hallways marked with walking lanes.

Through his mask, the first grader said he feels good but also nervous, "because I don't know if it's gonna work out."

His dad Justin was comfortable with the precautions in place.

"The in-person learning is really important to us," he said. "You know they get the social interaction that they've been missing all this time."

But for teachers, it means trickier lessons to teach this year.

"All the things that we've been trying to encourage of sharing and collaborative play and collaborative learning and now we're going against that please remain six feet apart," Dr. Shlensky said.
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