hsd153 square logo_web
Local News

District 153 survey shows parents want schools open, most favor hybrid approach

Parents of students in Homewood schools overwhelming want their children back in the classroom this fall, but they prefer a hybrid approach that will reduce class sizes and help the district manage pandemic safety measures. Nearly three quarters of the district’s families completed the survey. 

Parents of students in Homewood schools overwhelming want their children back in the classroom this fall.

Members of the District 153 school board will consider options for the 2020-21 school year at the 7 p.m. Monday meeting being conducted remotely.

Willow, Churchill and James Hart Schools will open Aug. 24.


In an interview with the Chronicle, Superintendent Dale Mitchell said the district has conducted a number of surveys since schools were closed in mid-March. The most recent survey asked parents and teachers to choose between school on a regular schedule, a hybrid/blended schedule of classroom work and online learning, or staying with only online learning.

The latest survey results from 1,081 families show 54 percent of parents approve of a blended curriculum, and 24 percent want students in school all day, with 22 percent supporting remote learning.

Mitchell said it meant a lot to staff and administrators knowing that nearly three-quarters of the 1,500 families in the district gave feedback.

On the surveys, parents wrote numerous questions asking what scheduling will look like, how buildings will be maintained, how students will be expected to do social distancing and wear masks all day. The district answered 18 questions on its website, hsd153.org.

Staff responses show 58 percent of teachers are willing to work on a hybrid schedule, and 21 percent favor coming back to school full time. Mitchell said 20 percent of staff opted for remote teaching, mostly because of health concerns. 

Shelly Marks, president of the school board, said, “We don’t have any good choices. We can only do the best choice right now.”

Assistant Superintendent Scott McAlister said a proposal before the board will have students split into two groups: Group A meeting in school Monday and Wednesday, and Group B meeting in school Tuesday and Thursday with Friday as a remote learning day for all students.

This plan reduces class sizes to between 10 and 14 students. 

“Think about what can happen when there’s one teacher and half of a normal class size. I think we’ll be giving kids an opportunity to grow and fly (with) more attention from the teacher,” Marks said, “so I think we should be thinking about the positives that can come out of this, even though we know it’s not the same” as before.

In addition, the district plan is to conduct remote learning for children who won’t be in the classroom. Mitchell said it will be like “another school system being run on the side” but he will have enough teachers to staff remote learning.

Some parents asked that the hybrid model remote learning day be moved to Wednesday to allow for a “deep cleaning” of the school in the middle of the week. McAlister said schools will be cleaned regularly.

“I don’t want people to get the impression that if we have extra time we’re going to be doing an extra better job of cleaning. We’re going to be doing cleaning all the time. We’re not sacrificing on cleaning,” he noted.

Mitchell said the district may be hiring extra custodial staff, bus monitors and other helpers. It also will be spending money on personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer, thermometers and setting up an isolation room. The district also finds it needs to purchase desks for some classrooms.

“For years we’ve had students working collaboratively” with three or four children sitting around a table, he said. “Now we have to tell teachers they have to rearrange desks” and have students sitting alone to meet the six-feet social distancing protocol.

The district has a small financial cushion to cover the added expenses. But Mitchell said spending the money now on these “hidden costs” means that the school board will be spending funds it thought would be there for future years.

The district isn’t sure if federal money is coming to cover these expenses, or what funding will look like from the state since Illinois is taking on additional costs because of COVID-19.

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Most read stories this week