New schedule: Opinions vary

New schedule: Opinions vary

Civic Memorial High School students returned to school full time Monday, and while many teachers, students, and parents are glad to have a return to normalcy, some expressed reservations because of increasing coronavirus numbers in Illinois and the region.

CM and many other districts in the area, including Edwardsville, Roxana, and Troy, have been running a “hybrid” schedule since returning to school in August. The coronavirus pandemic led to some districts, such as Granite City and Alton, relying on online learning for the first quarter.

CM’s schedule had students with the last name A-K attending class on Mondays and Wednesdays, while students L-Z attended on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays were an all-remote day.

The school board voted at their last meeting to move the high school to a block schedule, where all students will be in the building every day, but will attend classes with hours 1, 2, 4, and 6 one day, and hours 1, 3, 5, and 7 the next day. First hour will meet for 45 minutes every day, while the other hours will have 72 minutes of class time. School will be dismissed at 12:10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, the classes are shortened, with first hour having 30 minutes, and the other hours meeting for 57 minutes. Dismissal is at 11:10 a.m. on Fridays. The schedule was presented to the board by CM principal Justin Newell and Trimpe Middle School principal Adam Miller.

On Oct. 30, Illinois reported the highest number of COVID cases since early June. The positivity rate in Madison County was 15.15% on November 4, according to the county health department website. The 7-day average was 10.44%, and the 10-day average was 10.98%. If a region has a test positivity rate greater than or equal to 8% for three consecutive days, that area may be placed under restrictions, which includes bans on indoor dining and limits on social gatherings. The limit is less than 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity both indoors and outdoors, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website. Those capacity limits do not apply to schools. Madison County is in Region 4, which is currently under restrictions again, with bans on indoor dining in place.

Many teachers said they were glad to have more time with students, but the uptick of the virus in Illinois have some worried about possible health consequences.

Math teacher Brittney Clark said, “Although there are health/safety concerns, I’m looking forward to seeing the students on a regular basis. I feel that math is a hard subject on the hybrid schedule.”

Many teachers share this opinion, but are still hesitant. Suze Gibson a dual-credit history teacher at Civic Memorial High school said that she was happy to have more contact time with students, but worried about coronavirus numbers being on the rise. “I do have to admit that I’m a little apprehensive at the same time. The number of positive cases are up in Madison County, and we will not be able to social distance at all times under the new schedule.”

Art teacher Shawn Callies said, “It’s great to get all of the kids back with some kind of normalcy, but social distancing just took a huge hit. I know the student learning remotely was not the best idea, but it was the safest. It’s a tough call that we had to make. Let’s hope it was the right call. Just remember that the world is working in uncharted waters as far as Covid-19 goes. And lately, I feel that a lot of people forget this is still a pandemic and we, as a public school, still have to make smart and safe decisions.”

Culinary arts teacher Charlie Brown echoed Callies’ sentiments. “When I signed up to be a teacher in 94, it’s because I wanted to be around young people to try and make a difference in their lives. In that aspect, I am grateful we are all back together,” Brown said. “On the flip-side of it, I don’t feel many young people (high school students) are taking the Covid-19 seriously enough. Many are not distancing enough or wearing their masks properly. That makes me a little nervous.”

Rachel Varland, a new teacher of the math department at Civic Memorial High, said, “Personally, I am happy with the schedule change. I do have some health concerns when it comes to social distancing in the classroom. However, I know that almost all of my students will benefit, both academically and emotionally, from being in person.”

Angela Wood, a Spanish teacher, is in favor of coming back to school under the new block schedule. “I’m super excited about getting all of our students together in their classes full time,” she said. “I’m looking forward to having longer classes to get more learning in!”

Chemistry teacher Heather Wallace was also positive about the move. “I’m very excited to have all of my students back in the classroom every hour. I’m hopeful that we can continue on this schedule.”

Speech teacher Brett Kalker is also excited about the new development. Kalker said, “I’m rollin’ with it, but we’ll see.”

Parents had mixed opinions on the matter.
Sandi Harkey, a mom of a Civic Memorial student, expressed doubts about the new plan in light of the coronavirus situation in Illinois. “The governor has increased restrictions and large crowds aren’t permitted. But school is OK? How is that protecting students?”

Katie Althoff-Moore, who attended Civic Memorial High School, says, “While I am happy that they all get to see their friends again, I’m worried that the high school will become a Covid hotspot.”

Others, though, said the educational advantages take precedent.

Dawn Peterson, mother of a junior, said, “ I’m happy about it, I feel that it is a better situation for getting an education.”

Mindy DeClue, who has a junior and a senior at CM said, “You’re only young once. Part of growing into an adult is learning how to react in certain social situations. The only way you’ll learn how to react is if you are in social situations – school.”

Scott Reynolds, who has two daughers at CM, “I think it’s a good idea to get kids back because it will improve academics and well help students get back on track with schooling.”

Stacy Geiger, whose daughter is a senior, said she is looking forward to seeing how the changes play out. “I’m glad that the kids will be able to see each other every day. I think it’ll be good for them.”

Tori Hoffmann, a parent of a sophomore at CM, is optimistic about this new approach. “I think it’s a good solution for now until everything dies down and we are able to go back to normal full time,” she said.

Some students are excited because they found remote learning days to be taxing and believe their learning experience will be better when they’re in school full time.

Samara Helton, junior, “I think it’s going to be good for my virtual enterprising class so we can all be together to run this business. I’m also pretty excited to not be stressed out from a ton of remote work.”

Colton Carlise, junior, said think the new schedule is beneficial for academics. “During first quarter I saw a lot of students overwhelmed (be)cause their classes were only 2 days a week.”

“I think it will be beneficial for most students returning,” said Tara Highsmith, junior.

“I like the new schedule, because we get out a little bit earlier and I think it will be easier to follow,” said senior Kennedy Loewen.

Bryanna Mcduffie, sophomore at Civic Memorial High School, also said the new schedule will be easier to manage. “This new schedule doesn’t feel like last year because of the Coronavirus , but it feels better than going two days a week. I wasn’t learning or doing my work all the time in my daily routine but now with this change I have more time with school.”

Brayden Moss, junior, said, “ I feel that going five days a week is normal and should be that way, even during this pandemic. The school is taking the right precautions for this situation.”

Others, like junior class president Kennedy Bickmore, are glad for the social aspect of school. “I’m glad we’re going back to school because I haven’t seen a lot of my classmates since March,” said Bickmore.

Shane Hosto, a senior at CM, said, “I like the new schedule because I get to see twice as many of my friends now.”

Still, some, like senior Meredith Flack, expressed reservations about the new schedule. “With flu season approaching, it’s probably not the best idea,” she said. Flack and Peyton Whaley, sophomore, both agreed that there’s “no social distancing in the classroom which is not good,” and said they plan to be very cautious.

Abbi Gegier, a senior at CMHS, also voiced concerns. Geiger said, “I do not like [the new schedule.] I feel that I am going to struggle to learn in these classes having the block schedule each day. I’m afraid that our cases are going to spike, and I feel that they should have left it how it was.”

Senior Ian Heflin also expressed reservations., “I don’t feel like this will work out the way it’s intended to, but I’m hoping that it does,” he said.

Senior April Hornsey said, “I will be mad if I end up quarantined.”

The district in its communication with parents has said that social distancing will not always be possible.

Some students worry about the longer classes. All hours except for first hour will run for 72 minutes Monday through Thursday.

“My issue is the classes are so long. I’m also worried about getting remote work on the days I don’t see my teachers like getting homework from teachers on different days” said junior Isabella Norton.

Others liked the hybrid schedule because it mimics college. Mackenzie Williams said, “I (will) miss the old schedule because I feel like it prepared me better for college.”