The Board of Education voted 6 to 1 to approve "Option 1" and implement a split schedule that will allow HMS students to return to learning on Thursday, January 23. Tomorrow the teachers will report and participate in a planning day. On Thursday CHMS students will attend school from 7 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and HMS students will attend school from 12 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Logistical details will be emailed to parents tomorrow.
At a future meeting, the BOE will decide whether to waive the two days all D181 students missed due to the polar vortex and waive another two days that HMS students missed. According to Kevin Russell, the Assistant Superintendent of Learning, the current calendar had more instructional days built in than are required, so the weather absences can be waived (if the Board so chooses) and the school code also allows up to 2 days of required instruction to be waived if a school is closed due to an emergency.
With HMS students returning to school on Thursday, they will have missed a total of 5 days. If four of the days are waived, they will only have to make up one day. It will be up to the Board to decide if the missed instructional days should be made up. Had the BOE approved Option 2, which was Dr. Schuster's recommendation, HMS students would have missed a minimum of 7 days.
During the discussion, Board Member Vorobiev asked Dr. Schuster to clarify exactly what Option 2 meant. Under Option 2 a split schedule would begin next Monday only if it was determined that HMS could not reopen next Wednesday. If HMS could reopen next Wednesday, then students would not attend school at all until then. Board Member Heneghan pointed out that in light of this new explanation by Dr. Schuster, Option 2 was really the same as Option 3. The only difference would be if the remediation work went beyond next Wednesday, in which case a split schedule would be implemented.
In light of the knowledge that HMS students might not return to school at all before next Wednesday, the Board voted to implement Option 1. Board Member Nelson (who called in by phone -- again) initially expressed disapproval of a split schedule, but ultimately voted yes. President Turek (who called in by phone) voted no. Both expressed concern that half days would not provide a high quality educational experience and it would be better to add full days to make up for the missed days.
Vice President Vorobiev ran the meeting because of Mr. Turek's physical absence and before the Board
voted, she entertained comments from HCHTA Co-President Heather Scott and parents. Ms. Scott stated that the teachers could support Option 1. The majority of parents also supported getting the students back to school this week, pointing out that making HMS students attend school into the summer while all other D181 schools are off would be very frustrating and would not make for a good educational experience. Similarly, there could be conflicts with summer camps and vacation plans. But the primary reason to start a split shift this week was because the students have been out of school for too long now and it was, in the words of one parent, "time to stop the bleeding." CHMS parents, including former Board President Marc Monyek expressed support for the split schedule, with some parents pointing out how coming together as a community to help each other out will be a good lesson to share with our children.
We completely agree. Kudos to the teachers at both schools; those at CHMS for sharing their classrooms and materials and those at HMS who are willing to do whatever it takes to get our students back on track. Thank you to the CHMS community for supporting the HMS community. Thank you to Board Member Vorobiev for running a smooth, interactive meeting and asking for parent input. Thank you to Board Member Clarin for being so involved in the day to day oversight of the remediation work being done at HMS. Thank you to Board Members Garg and Heneghan for once again asking good questions and fleshing out the issues. Thank you to Board Member Yaeger for supporting Option 1. Thank you to both Principal Pena and Principal Sonntag for working collaboratively to get the HMS students back to school sooner rather than later.
Thank you to the Central Administration for finally meeting and getting a plan in place and presenting it to the Board for approval. Amazing that it was done less than 24 hours after the Board asked for it. We wish they'd done it sooner, so that our students would not have missed any school this week. We still don't understand why it wasn't. Some speculate that it was because Dr. Schuster was not on site and fully and directly engaged in personally dealing with all aspects of the crisis. We may never know, but we think this is a legitimate question that should be explored by the Board of Education as they evaluate Dr. Schuster's performance, especially since there are many, many logistical issues that will need to be tackled in the next 36 hours before school starts on Thursday morning. These issues could have been handled more calmly and thoroughly if the planning for a split shift contingency plan had started shortly after the first or second pipe burst, and certainly as soon as mold was discovered last Thursday.
For the sake of the students, teachers and staff at both CHMS and HMS, we hope things will go smoothly over the next week and that this "short term fix" is exactly that, short term. We hope to see the HMS students back in their home school by Wednesday, January 29, at the latest. We will continue to provide updates as they are issued by D181 on the progress of the mold remediation and test results at HMS.