Could JTHS Re-Open?

William Hansen

In March of 2020, Joliet high schools followed suit with the rest of the world in shutting down campuses and having students learn from their computers in the comfort of their homes. E-Learning had a rough start which can be seen in the statistics for student’s attendance; combined with the local policy that grades cannot be brought down for the remainder of that semester, most kids simply closed the laptop and lived their lives. The 2020-2021 school year is like normal with grading now which is in itself an incentive to keep working hard despite the oddness of learning online, the same goes with attendance policies. Overall, despite more resources (the entirety of the internet) at their disposal and office hours being offered by teachers, E-Learning is still a struggle for some students because it causes burnout. If you were to ask one how they felt about this kind of education, they’re going to tell you they hate it, and wish they could just sit in a classroom again, or that they’ve accepted it’s always going to be this way.

Then we have to ask, is the school district going to allow students back into the buildings? In my personal opinion, it’s assumed that at least for the rest of second semester, students will be strictly learning at home with no chance to come back. The school board meets every six weeks to discuss whether it would be a good idea to bring students in and how they would attempt to follow CDC guidelines to ensure safety according to their website. “Every six weeks, the decision to deliver instruction remotely will be evaluated based on the IDPH data that is available.” The board has been meeting every six weeks since March. Based on this, and statistics about the fluctuating infection and mortality rates of COVID-19 in Illinois, it is hard to argue that there’s a chance to allow learning on campus again. 

But what if students are allowed to walk the halls again? If that is the case, then the school would allow for a group of students at a time to come in once a week for a “blended learning format.” Four days will be spent online, and one day in a classroom, and only a small portion of the student body will be in the building at a time. It may seem pointless to some, it might excite others, that is why the school is giving kids the choice whether they want to spend one day in a real classroom each week. The number of students at Joliet Central in particular is around 3300, and to follow CDC guidelines there must be 6 feet of space for each student, if the school wants to bring in the full capacity allowed, each group would consist of 550 students. But there are only 5 days possible for school, where would the extra 550 go? It’s a predicament the school does not seem to address on the website, however this might work out anyway because of the choice students are given. If we go back, many might choose to stay totally online for safety reasons, or that it seems pointless to come in once a week, it’s not really the full high school experience that way. To conclude, there seems to be little hope that JTHS will return to in-person classes at all, but if it does happen, the board has a plan to keep students safe from the pandemic.