Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 students soon could be back in school for the first time this school year. A date hasn’t been disclosed, but the school board has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. today to discuss a timeline to implement hybrid learning. Families that registered their children for hybrid learning were to have been contacted by the district Thursday afternoon with directions on how to access information concerning in-person attendance. The school board in mid-November approved a hybrid learning model but did not set a starting date, saying it would be subject to guidance from health officials. At the time, Superintendent Pete Hannigan said families and staff would be given at least two weeks’ notice before hybrid learning would start. The board’s decision allowed the district to open registration for in-person learning. About 52% of families selected the hybrid model, with 48% choosing remote learning, according to spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski. About 3,800 students are enrolled in the K-8 district. School board President Robin Cleek said parents have been told guidance from health officials will be a big factor in creating the hybrid timeline. The district anticipated a shift in the guidance by the end of the week, which is why the special meeting was scheduled for today, she said. “We’ve had a lot of parents anxiously awaiting a timeline for our implementation of hybrid learning,” Cleek said. “We didn’t want to make people wait until the regular meeting on Jan. 14 to hear the update and ensuing discussion.” When hybrid learning begins, students who chose that option will be assigned two consecutive, full days per week to attend on campus. One group will be in person Mondays and Tuesdays, the other Thursdays and Fridays. All will attend remotely on Wednesdays so buildings can be deep cleaned, Cleek said. All grades will follow the same model, except the remote day for early childhood and prekindergarten classes will be Thursdays. Students who previously opted to attend in person can choose to stay remote when the time comes, Cleek said. There is no plan to test students for coronavirus, but the district is seeking a waiver to test on site any staff members who start displaying symptoms. The debate over in-person learning has polarized parents in many school districts and prompted a bounty of local school board candidates, including in District 73, where three 4-year seats are being contested. Initially, six candidates filed, including a loose coalition of three candidates who connected on a District 73 in-school learning Facebook page. Objections to the nominating petitions of all three were filed with the Lake County clerk’s office. Andrew Jones withdrew before a hearing was held. Mike Murphy, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago, said he was removed from the ballot for forgetting to put the name of the school district on three pages of nominating petitions. Alma Miranda, a mother of three who has never run for office, weathered the challenge and plans to stay in the race. “I didn’t really want to run but I feel my kids should be in school,” she said. Board member Wesley Ann Polen, who is seeking a second term, is the only incumbent running. Also on the ballot are Michael Engle and Karl Borchers.


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