JTHS Board approves transition to hybrid schedule

JTHS Board approves transition to hybrid schedule

Haley Maser, News Editor

The JTHS Board of Education has approved the decision for students to return to classrooms using a hybrid schedule after nearly a year of remote learning. The hybrid model, which was approved on February 16, gives students the option to continue online classes or attend school in-person once a week. 

Joliet West students have been learning virtually since March, with the school board citing factors such as high COVID positivity rates and logistical issues as the reasons behind the delayed return. In her most recent weekly message, Superintendent Guseman explained, “This decision is possible because of access to the vaccine, the move into Phase 4 with declining infection numbers, and the masking, distancing, and cleaning plan we have put into place.”

Students who selected in-person learning on a survey given last fall will be divided into three groups. Groups A, B, and C will be allowed into the building on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, respectively. This plan will begin the week of March 8. 

With other schools in the area returning to classrooms multiple days a week, the district had to research and deliberate over the best decision for the West and Central campuses. “Our size, 3,300 kids at both campuses, is the reason we cannot begin with more than 1 day a week,” explained Superintendent Guseman. Many classes currently consist of 28 to 31 students, and most classrooms can only accommodate 8 or 9 while following COVID restrictions. “These decisions have not been taken lightly and we have ensured we have done the research and worked with consultants to ensure all safety guidelines are followed,” Guseman elaborated.

While many students are excited to return to classrooms and reconnect with their classmates and teachers, not everyone is a fan of the corresponding rules. Emma Schumacher, a Joliet West junior who originally opted for the hybrid model, stated, “There’s no way of stopping students from socializing in the hallway… and I would not want to go back and just sit on my computer which I could do, and have been doing, at home.” When attending classes in-person, students will not be able to socialize or work in groups and will be expected to wear headphones to engage with zoom calls. 

Teachers also have to adjust to the various guidelines introduced along with the return to classrooms. “Although I am excited about the return to school and getting the opportunity to see my students in-person, I am not in favor of the hybrid model,” stated Mrs. Muczynski, a conditioning teacher at Joliet West. 

Physical education classes will face many restrictions when in-person learning begins. Students will not dress for gym classes or be allowed into locker rooms. “ I feel that we have been working hard through our zoom workouts and now will lose several days of being active because of the no dressing, no sweating, no equipment restrictions,” elaborated Mrs. Muczynski. “So many health factors have dramatically increased due to lack of movement… Not to mention the depression and anxiety rise due to lack [of] social interaction. Working out can improve all of these concerns. Physical education is ESSENTIAL.”

Despite the logistical challenges the district has faced and criticism towards the upcoming hybrid model, many students are happy to get back in classrooms. “I’m so excited about finally getting to be back in the building to see my teachers and classmates, stated Kiley Duensing, a junior at Joliet West. “I really think it’s going to help me learn and be less distracted while in class!” Students will be welcomed back to the building on March 8, taking a new step towards normalcy.