The Cook County School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved pivoting kindergarten through third grade students to the hybrid model.

Grades kindergarten through third will begin hybrid learning Oct. 22. On Oct. 19-20, there will be no classes or child care, to allow for teachers and staff to prepare for the hybrid model switch. On Oct. 21, teachers will reach out to students and families individually to talk about expectations for the new model.

Cook County Schools started the school year in distance learning for all, even though county COVID-19 numbers allowed for in-person learning for all students. Some parents were upset by this decision but the district said it would revisit the learning model in October at the end of the first quarter.

This recommendation came from the Incident Command Team, which was part of creating a hybrid model that would keep students and staff safe and healthy. This group of people is made up of representatives from the district, public health, county and community members. They have been meeting once a week since August, principal and acting superintendent Megan Myers said during the meeting.

Under the hybrid model, all students in kindergarten through third grade will participate in distance learning on Mondays with teachers meeting with their classes, individual check-ins, independent work and additional pre-recorded tutorials. Students will attend in person Tuesdays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. When students arrive at school they are expected to travel directly to their classroom.

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According to the hybrid plan, classrooms are large enough for all students in each class to attend on the same days due to student numbers being less than the 50% capacity and 10 students or less requirement for hybrid.

Teachers who have requested and were granted a distance teaching position will continue to teach from home with paraprofessionals supporting the teacher with classroom management of students that are in the classroom learning. Classrooms are equipped with proper technology to support the instruction of distance learning and teaching simultaneously to the students that are in the classroom.

Families can opt out of the hybrid learning and continue to distance learn if they so choose.

Myers said in an email statement to the News Tribune that this pivot is being made as a result of case numbers remaining low in the county and the philosophy of the board to slowly implement hybrid learning into grade levels.

“We have experienced a trial to our protocols and we have come out ahead with no contacts receiving positive COVID-19 tests,” she said. “The plan has become stronger and we have learned through having essential worker pods in our building the best way to implement a hybrid plan in these grades.”

Cook County has had nine COVID-19 cases since March while other counties around the Northland have seen significant spikes in cases over the past month.

“It also supports building a foundation of learning and skills in our kindergarten through third grade students supported by the read well by third grade plan,” Myers said.