During a regular meeting on Jan. 12, District 97 officials released the results of a learning preference survey, conducted from Dec. 18 through Jan. 6, that was designed to gauge families’ preference for either full remote learning or in-person hybrid learning. 

According to the survey, most D97 families indicated they would prefer their students to return to classrooms for a hybrid model that blends in-person learning and remote learning.

Roughly 54 percent of the 5,619 students identified in the survey will return to classrooms for hybrid learning, the survey showed. The other 46 percent of students will continue learning remotely. 

Mann was the D97 school most open to hybrid learning, with roughly 64 percent of families at the school indicating they prefer their students to return to classrooms. 

Whittier was the school least receptive, with roughly 47 percent of families indicating they prefer their students to return to classrooms.

Amanda Siegfried, D97’s communications director, said during the Jan. 12 meeting that the survey was important for the district to effectively plan for the second trimester. 

“We sent maybe five or six emails and did some phone calls and text messages over break to [remind families],” Siegfried said.  

D97 officials said last week that they still intend students to return to classrooms on Feb. 1 — roughly a year after Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all schools in the state closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the survey, D97 administrators were thinking they would need to split students into two different cohorts, with each cohort in the building at a different time in order to accommodate various COVID-19 restrictions, such as 6-feet distancing. 

With less than 54 percent of families indicating they want their students to return to classrooms, however, there is no need for the cohorts. 

In a statement released Jan. 14, Supt. Carol Kelley explained that elementary students will learn in-person five days each week and middle-school students will learn in-person four days of each week — Monday through Thursday. 

Kelley said the district is also reviewing and reconsidering the metrics they’ve used to help determine when students will return to classrooms. In the past, the district has been relying on metrics that track the spread of the virus in Oak Park and the wider Cook County community. 

But new guidance by the Harvard Global Health Institute recommends that, in addition to community-spread metrics, “the recommendation is that schools focus on rates of in-school transmission and the quality of infection control.” 

Kelley said D97 officials will present more information on the updated guidance and final schedule information at a special board meeting held at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 20.

D97 seeking substitutes

District 97 is looking for community members to work as substitute teachers and classroom monitors once students transition to hybrid learning. 

Individuals interested in applying or who want more information should visit: op97.org/hr/substitutes.

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