Seniors extended opportunity to come in for five-day learning

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Photo by Adam Monnette

Because this is the last year for seniors at Lake Zurich, the school is trying to engage them as much as possible. “The decision was made to begin with our senior class [as] we’re trying to think creatively of all different types of ways to really engage our seniors in their final year here at LZ, and that’s been quite a task, but one that we still remain really passionate about,” Ashley Weltler, assistant principal of academics, said. “We made the decision to begin with our seniors to offer the opportunity to still come in and engage daily at LZ.”

Sixty-eight seniors came in on February 18 for five-day in-person learning, an option that is currently only open to seniors.

“This is actually a project we’ve been working on for quite some time, trying to assess how we can get more students in our seats in the building safely,” Ashley Weltler, assistant principal of academics, said. “Now that we have started semester two, we’ve started to really see what are our options, and also assess how many students selected hybrid but were still zooming from home. This has all been a very fluid process, where we are trying to assess how many seats exist in the building that are empty and how many can we open up to students who really do want to be here five days a week.”

One of the factors the school is facing is capacity, which is the number of students and staff that can be in a classroom at once safely; this was the main factor that determined if each senior was able to come in for the five-day option based on their schedule.

“Each classroom is different because not all of our classrooms are the exact same size. You’ll probably notice that the classrooms change; certainly our classroom for our Choir students is going to have a different capacity than a German classroom,” Weltler said. “I would say on average, a classroom could fit between 12 and 15 people – that is students and teachers – but each one is different, so we have some that are lower and some that are higher. In larger spaces though, we are looking at 50 people or less in large spaces.”

With the new seniors coming into the building, Weltler says “it does not alter current students’ selection,” so current Hybrid A and Hybrid B learners will not be affected by the change.

“Our students who have selected and are currently Hybrid A or Hybrid B learners will continue on, and even for our seniors; we have many seniors who are Hybrid A or Hybrid B learners and they want to continue in that fashion, and that’s totally fine,” Weltler said. “Our students still have the choice and the selection of their learning, including our E-learners, too. We extended this five-day offer to every senior, no matter if they were an E-learner or a Hybrid learner, just to see who would like to make that selection of coming in at five days a week.”

While the five-day option is currently only offered to seniors at the moment, Weltler says the school is continuing to collect data in order to open up the option to other grade levels.

“Our goal, of course, is to have as many students in-person that is safe to do so, those that want to and those who also need it,” Weltler said. “We have students who are struggling either academically, or they’re struggling with anxiety or social emotionally, and they excel in a school environment in-person; we want to be able to provide that as long as it’s safe to do so following all the mitigation strategies. We also need to follow social distancing guidelines, which remain at six feet at this time, so we want to be able to do this quickly, but we also have to be able to do this in a way that is safe for everyone. We certainly don’t want to race and do it in an ineffective manner, but we’re going to continually invite more students into the building as our capacity allows.”

As the school continues to move forward with the five-day option, there is still a chance it can shift to e-learning, although Weltler says they will push through in order to continue to allow more students in the building.

“I think what we’ve learned in the past year coming on is that we can’t necessarily predict the future,” Weltler said, “I will say I think our data is showing in a much steadier place, in terms of the spread of the virus and in terms of mitigation strategies that are allowing us to be in-person in school safely. As long as we are still in the same circumstances, we are going to continue forward, offering the opportunity for students to experience in-person learning, as long as it’s safe to do so. We’ve learned if we have to pivot again, we will do that, but then we’re going to come back because the ultimate goal is to get back to some sense of normalcy and to provide that for our students.”