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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Unit 5 Grade Schools To Shift Hybrid Learning To All In-School

Prairieland Elementary School
Eric Stock
Unit 5 elementary schools will shift students learning in the hyrbid format to five days a week in the classroom.

UPDATED 4:45 P.M. | Unit 5 plans to phase in more classroom days for its pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students who have been learning in a hybrid format.Superintendent Kristen Weikle said in a message to parents Monday the district's pre-K through elementary students will transition from hybrid to the classroom five days a week starting Feb. 8.

“Recent research has shown that schools are not superspreaders, especially when masks and other protective measures are in place,” Weikle said. “Many area districts and schools have had all elementary students back five days a week.

“These schools have not seen widespread transmission even when students are sitting less than 6 feet apart,” Weikle said, adding most classrooms will have 3 to 5 feet between students.

Pre-kindergarten students will transition from two classroom days a week to four starting Feb. 1, then to five days the following week. Students in kindergarten through second grade will begin five days a week in the classroom on Feb. 4. Grades three to five will move to all in-school instruction on Feb. 8. 

All elementary special education hybrid programs that are four days a week will move to five days per week.

Weikle said students who have chosen all-remote learning will remain virtual. Just over 30% of elementary students in the district chose the all-remote option, Weikle said. 

For now, Unit 5's junior high and high schools will remain in a hybrid format. Weikle said those schools are more crowded and harder to social distance. 

"We have a lot of elementary schools, but we only have four junior highs and two high schools, so you are packing a lot more students into fewer buildings," Weikle said. 

Weikle added the district informed parents in December that in-school instruction would likely expand during the spring semester, if health metrics improved. 

"We are thrilled to be moving forward in this direction," she said. "I don't know that we'll have 'normal' for quite a while, but we are getting closer to what feels more normal for students." 

According to the district's website, 94 students (including 50 elementary) and 23 teachers and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in January.
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