BRADLEY — The Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School Board of Education approved a new system of metrics Monday that the district will use to determine how many students are allowed in the building for three-week spans.
Every three weeks, district administration will evaluate five criteria of COVID-19 trends in Kankakee County and within the school, including the county’s warning color, weekly county case rates, weekly county overall case numbers, weekly BBCHS student case numbers and weekly county positivity rates.
If two of the five criteria demonstrate “substantial transmission” of COVID-19, the school will return to full remote learning for the next three weeks. If all five criteria demonstrate “minimal transmission,” the school will commence hybrid learning with two-thirds of in-person students in the building per day.
Currently, the school is following the “moderate transmission” model with one-third of in-person students in the building each day. If COVID-19 trends improve within the “moderate transmission” model, the school will increase to one-half of in-person students in the building per day.
Full in-person learning will resume when a vaccine is available and/or there are no new cases over a sustained period, corresponding with Phase 5 of Restore Illinois.
Friday will be the evaluation day to determine the model for the three-week period of Oct. 19 to Nov. 6.
Superintendent Scott Wakeley said he expects the school will be ready to move forward with 50 percent of students in the building. The 2020-21 school year started in this format before a temporary switch to full remote.
“The model is designed to move us back to 50 percent, where everybody seemed to be happy at the beginning of the year,” he said.
The school had 11 positive cases in August, two in September and two so far in October, he said.
Wakeley said administration will continue working on creative solutions to bring more students back to school and lengthen school days.
“Ultimately, our goal is to get more kids in the building as quickly as possible,” he said.
While they would like to return to full days instead of half days, the state’s 50-person capacity and social distancing limitations present a challenge when it comes to lunch periods.
“We want our kids back all day,” he said. “I know we want that, and we want to deliver that as soon is reasonable for us to do that.”
Full days with lunch are possible on the one-third model; however, the school would not be able to move forward to allow one-half or two-thirds of students at a time.
“Everybody knows our building was too small to begin with, and we used to have seven lunch hours that we crammed 300-plus students to get through a line in 30 minutes so they can eat,” Wakeley said. “I can assure you that we are spending time investigating how do we create more space.”
Principal Brian Wright explained that the bell schedule will not change as the school shifts through the different models.
Class periods run for 30 minutes from 7:25 a.m. to noon, with in-person and remote learners attending lessons in real time. Lessons are also recorded for students to access 24/7 if they choose, Wright said.
Afternoons have changed to incorporate structured times for teachers to provide interventions and assistance to students struggling in a particular content area, he added.
There are seven remote sessions from 1:05 to 3:20 p.m. in which students can schedule one-on-one time or small group meetings teachers.
Wright said the sessions also serve as an opportunity for students to ask questions if they do not feel comfortable doing so during class.
Students seem to be more comfortable engaging on the online chat than speaking up during class while wearing a face mask, he said.
“What we see every day is that these masks aren’t really masks; they’re muzzles,” he said. “Our students, when they come in person, they do not talk. Our student body will sit and take in what the faculty is giving them, and we try to engage them, and if they do it’s small amounts of answers.”
BBCHS is one of only three Illinois high schools with a student enrollment over 1,900 that started the 2020-21 school year in person, Wakeley said.
Wakeley said most parents indicated in a recent survey that they want their children back in school and are willing to take more risks despite COVID-19 than they were in March.
“Most of our people we’re hearing from, they want their kids back in school all day,” he said. “We do hear from upset parents who also say, ‘You have blood on your hands for allowing kids to come to school.’ We are hearing both sides of the story.”