LZ shifts to fully remote learning until 2021

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Photo by Adam Monnette

With students returning to full remote learning, classrooms will be empty until after winter break. “If COVID cases are rising while we’re in school, it’s safer to just stay home,” Max Barboza, freshman hybrid learner, said. “Safety should always be the first priority when you’re dealing with a global pandemic.”

Adam Monnette and Sasha Kek

Starting November 13, the school will shift back to fully remote learning until January 11, 2021 due to an increase in COVID cases.

According to the New York Times Illinois Covid Map, Lake County currently has 28,602 recorded COVID cases as of November 13, 14 of which are in the high school as seen on the District 95 COVID-19 Case Count

“The Board and Dr. Gallt have consistently taken the position that in-person instruction is in the best interests of our students as long as risks can be mitigated appropriately,” Scott McConnell, Student Board President, said. “While there has not yet been any school-based spread in our district buildings, Dr. Gallt and her team feel that the level of community spread has driven staff and student absences to levels where it isn’t feasible to operate in an in-person mode.”

Due to increasing numbers in the surrounding community, the administration made the decision to close schools in the district, to slow transmission, according to the letter Kelley Gallt, District Superintendent, sent to families on November 12. While schools are planned to stay remote until after winter break, they may reopen if the positivity rates drop.

“The data we use to drive decisions is a lagging indicator, so it’s possible the data could improve enough to allow us to return to school,” McConnell said, “however, given that the holidays may increase community spread due to travel a short time before winter break, it isn’t likely; [this] is why Dr. Gallt set expectations this way.”

When Victoria Zbierowski, junior hybrid learner, heard about the closure, she “was pretty heartbroken when I heard that” as she says it is difficult for her to learn remotely. However, she feels that the decision to close the school is the right decision to make.

“I appreciate the district looking out for the students and for their health,” Zbierowski said. “I  think this a necessary step to ensure that everyone is safe and that no one gets sick, although it is sad to go back to remote learning. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to come back [for] second semester.”

Zbierowski is “not really fond of the idea of going full e-learning because “I personally get distracted pretty easily and I find it harder to find the motivation to do schoolwork,” Zbierowski said, which is why “academically, it’s going to hurt.”

“I do think academically [the school closure] will take a big toll on me because I’m in three AP classes and all honors, so the workload is pretty big,” Zbierowski said. “Since they’re more faster-paced classes and with AP having to cover a giant amount of information in a short period of time, it’s been pretty stressful to be on top of all of that since we’re at home over an iPad and you don’t get that direct teacher to student interactions. I’m hoping everything goes back to normal because I don’t know if I can handle e-learning any longer.” 

Students like Max Barboza, freshman hybrid learner, are physically and socially affected by the school closure as well, as he “will be at home a lot more [and] I will have less physical activity,” Barboza said, and will not be able to see his friends as often as in hybrid.

“I feel pretty sad about school closing [because] I enjoy seeing my friends in person, [but] I had a feeling that [the school closure] would happen,” Barboza said. “Until there’s a vaccine, going into school will continue to result in COVID cases rising.”

Since school is where a lot of students congregate, there is an increased risk of having students back in the building. 37 students and staff within the district have contracted COVID since August 31 as of November 6, according to the District 95 COVID Dashboard.

As McConnell is a parent of a senior, he would also like his son back to learning in person, but recognizes the need for the school closure.

“As a parent, while I find the pivot to e-learning disappointing, I think it’s the right decision based on the community data,” McConnell said. “I hope the data improves so we can get students back in the classroom.”