MORRIS – The Morris Community High School District 101 board met Monday night and one of the topics of discussion was a plan to return to in-person learning.
The board voted to adopt a hybrid learning plan that will start on Oct. 19, the start of the second quarter of the school year. Superintendent Dr. Craig Ortiz indicated that the initial plan will be a rotating schedule.
"We plan to have half the students in school one day and half the next," he said. "That will help with the social distancing aspect of it. We would probably go with the top half of the alphabet one day and the bottom half of the alphabet the next day.
"We also decided that the first two days will be for freshmen only. They need an orientation to get to know the school and where their classes are. We thought if we gave them a day by themselves that it might not be so overwhelming. We ran a program in August where they came in, but with the limit on the size of groups at that time, they weren't able to walk through their schedule and find their rooms."
Ortiz said that the amount of time the students will spend in the school is still up in the air.
"We aren't certain whether it will be a half-day bell schedule, like we have now, or whether it will be a full-day bell schedule," he said. "A lot of that depends on what the other schools that feed into GAVC [Minooka, Coal City and Gardner-South Wilmington] are doing. If they are going full day, we are going to have to align our schedule with them."
Ortiz said that there was a suggestion that, like the local elementary schools, the teachers could move from room to room and have the students stay in one room. He said that is not an option for the high school due to the difficulty in scheduling.
"At the high school level, it just wouldn't work to have the teachers moving," he said.
Ortiz went on to say that there were also concerns voiced about the social and emotional affects of the kids not being in school.
"We all want the kids to come back to school," he said. "We have our fingers crossed that we will open and that we will be able to stay open. We are going to give it our best shot.
"Our teachers are eager to have the kids back in the building. Some are worried, but it's a situation that, until you try it, you are going to worry about it. Our teachers did a great job of adjusting when we had to go to remote learning back in March, and I am confident they will do a great job of adjusting to having the kids back to in-person. It will be tough, since there will also be some remote learning, but they will find their niche. Since March 13, other than dropping off books, picking up diplomas or an occasional athletic event, there haven't been any kids in the school. It will be nice to have them back."
Another point of discussion at the meeting was the possible dissolution of the Morris Rec Center. Ortiz said that the current situation has forced the district to take a look at closing the Rec Center to the public.
"In 1998, the Morris Area Leisure Services [MALS] board dissolved and it became the Morris Rec Center," he said. "I believe the reasons were financial. Here we are, 22 years later, and the Rec Center isn't really serving its purpose. There are very few memberships, and it's hard for us to even let people use it. With the school's activities and the COVID guidelines, it's not making any money. If someone were to come in and buy a membership right now, it would be hard for them to be able to use it. Also, it's difficult to find people to staff it when it is open.
"It was just a discussion, and ]MCHS athletic director] Jeff [Johnson] and I will talk about it some more and look and see what makes sense."