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Hinsdale Middle School students will be back in school beginning Thursday. But it won’t be their school.
The District 181 Board of Education approved an attendance plan Tuesday night that will implement a split schedule at Clarendon Hills Middle School, putting CHMS students in the classrooms from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and HMS students in the classrooms from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning Thursday morning and lasting until the ductwork, cleanup and air-quality testing at HMS is complete.
If the HMS ductwork and cleanup is done by Sunday evening as expected, the necessary air-quality testing would likely be done in time to open the school by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
HMS principal Ruben Peña said the logistics of bussing and books will be difficult, and HMS teacher Heather Scott, a co-president of the district's teachers' union, said shortened hours would be difficult for teachers and the first day at CHMS would not be a strong learning day due to students figuring out the new building.
Even so, board member Gary Clarin said, it's better than waiting.
"I think three days of education is a lot better than three days of no
education," he said.
Clarin was among the board's majority that approved the plan by a 6-1 vote. Board President Marty Turek voting against it.
Turek expressed support for a different plan initially recommended by district administration that would have put HMS students back in their school next Tuesday or Wednesday if it’s ready. Under that plan, if the district got word on Sunday or before that work was not going to be done on time, the CHMS split-schedule would have begun Monday morning.
"I don't think the quality of education is going to be there on Thursday and Friday," Turek said. "They're going to be, frankly, wasted days."
CHMS principal Griffin Sonntag said his staff and the HMS staff will "make it work," and he's confident if CHMS had a similar issue, the HMS staff would do the same thing.
"We are a community district and we have to do that," Sonntag said. "We have to think
about the whole district."
Superintendent Renée Schuster said that even though the district administration endorsed the Turek-supported option at the outset of the meeting, it has no problem with the Thursday restart.
"We can deliver that," Schuster said.
Scott, the HMS teacher, said she and her colleagues are OK with the approved plan as well.
"Whatever you decide we just want to make this the best options possible for the kids that we can," Scott said to board members before their vote. "We’re willing to do whatever it takes."
Even with a Thursday restart, there will be days that need to be made up at HMS. HMS students could be in school on President’s Day (Feb. 17), Good Friday (April 18) and a grading day on June 2, though that has not yet been discussed by the board. There are also five emergency days (June 6 and June 9-12) set aside after the scheduled last day of school that could be used.
The spring break non-attendance days (March 31 to April 4) will not be turned into attendance days.
Because they will include four-and-a-half hours of instruction only (lunch will not be served for either group), the split-schedule days will count as full attendance days. So there will likely be three days missed by HMS students that the rest of the district’s students do not.