Clarendon Hills Middle School will host a half day of classes, starting Thursday, for both its own students and those from Hinsdale Middle School under a plan approved Tuesday at an emergency meeting of the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board.
The plan calls for CHMS students to be in school from 7-11:30 a.m. and has HMS students in attendance from noon to 4:30 p.m.
That schedule will remain in effect until work to cleanup mold at HMS has been completed and results from testing of air and surfaces inside the building indicate that it’s safe for students, teachers and staff to return. HMS has been closed since Jan. 17. District officials expect Jan. 28 as the earliest date it could open. They also expect to know by Sunday afternoon if a Jan. 28 opening is likely.
Hinsdale Middle School teachers are to return to work today (Wednesday) at Prospect School and CHMS, using that time for planning and preparation.
“We want to get back with these kids as soon as we can,” said Heather Scott, co-president of the Hinsdale Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association. “The short schedule is hard — we’ve been struggling with that. We’re really looking at a good academic day on Friday and adjusting on Thursday.”
Along with the approved plan, the board considered two other options: keep HMS closed for the remainder of this week and start with a split schedule if work was not completed by Jan. 26; and continue to cancel classes until HMS is reopened, with an extended school year and/or a change in attendance days.
The teachers’ association met with administrators and jointly recommended keeping HMS closed for the remainder of the week and implementing a split schedule Monday if work had not been completed. But public sentiment at Tuesday’s meeting, which attracted about 50 community members, was to get kids back in school.
“We need a definite stop to the bleeding,” said Brent Coan, who has a child in the seventh-grade at HMS. “We can’t afford to keep going; we need to get our kids back in school.”
Board member Jill Vorobiev also expressed concern with keeping HMS closed for the remainder of the week.
“My concern with that option is that we’d have two more days this week when students are not in session, and on Sunday, at best, we’d hear whether students can go back on (Jan. 28),” she said. “This option isn’t really viable or feasible. It’s just too vague.”
The option to cancel classes until HMS is ready to reopen and extend the school year was dismissed by many.
“I don’t know what kind of quality education we’ll have at HMS when the other schools are out at the end of the year,” said board member Gary Clarin.
District officials said they would continue to update the district’s website, www.d181.org, with information about bus routes to CHMS during the half-day schedules. A shuttle bus will provide transportation to CHMS from HMS for HMS students who normally walk to school.
A schedule of class periods has been prepared and includes eight periods of 30-33 minutes each, with 3-minute passing periods. There are no lunch periods.
Normal state requirements call for a minimum of 5 hours of classroom time each day, said Kevin Russell, District 181’s assistant superintendent of learning.
“We’ll have a bout 4 ½ hours each day, but you can go under that with approval,” Russell said.
Approval already has been received from the DuPage Regional Office of Education; additional approval from the Illinois State Board of Education is expected very soon, Russell said.
With the return to school Thursday, HMS students will have missed three days beyond the two days, Jan. 6-7, missed by all schools in the district because of sub-zero temperatures.
Specific plans for making up those days will be made in the future.
Russell said missed days could be made up President’s Day, Feb. 17; spring break, March 31 through April 4; Good Friday, April 18; and Grading Day, June 2, all of which are listed on the district calendar as “not in attendance days.”
The school calendar also has June 6 and June 9-12 as emergency days at the end of the school year. The board has the option to not make up the two days missed by the entire district earlier this month because the district calendar is two days longer than what is required by the Illinois State Board of Education.
“We don’t have to make that decision, yet, and we don’t know at this point what the weather is going to be like for the rest of the winter,” Russell said.