Local schools struggle to balance in-person learning and health

After three local schools opened in-person, two were forced to go fully remote within a week


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Loyola Academy students started the year with in-person learning. Along with, Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, they had to move to full remote within days of opening

With the start of the academic year, most high schools in the area are learning to teach remotely, but some have traded in Zoom calls for plexiglass and masks, and reopened their schools.

Lake Forest Academy, Loyola Academy and Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, all began the year with in-person learning to some extent, and had varying degrees of success.

I was not very surprised because whether we social distance in school or not people are going home and we don’t know where people have been so someone can easily bring COVID-19 to the school”

— Mia Latinik

According to Shylee Saladi, a junior at Lake Forest Academy (LFA), the school took several effective measures to ensure the safety and well-being of students. Those include  smaller class sizes, mandatory temperature checks, mask usage, COVID-19 testing, and cleaning measures.

“The school has really been good about creating a new learning environment that is in many ways the same as before,” Saladi said.

According to Saladi after two rounds of testing, the latest after Labor Day weekend, she has  only heard of one positive case of COVID-19. Saladi credited this to how seriously the students are taking the issue, each doing his or her part to create a safe learning environment.

“For all of our classes starting with advisory, right before we leave we have to sanitize the desks, wipe them down, we have to wipe the chair down and sanitize all of the desks in the classroom even if we didn’t touch them,” explained Saladi.

While LFA has managed to maintain in-person learning, other schools in the area have not been as fortunate. 

Both Loyola and Rochelle Zell began the year with a hybrid system of some in-person learning and some remote learning, but both were forced to close campuses within days after opening.  

Cameron Boyd, a senior at Loyola, felt relatively safe going into the school year with all of the measures Loyola had taken.

“They did a good job of providing plenty of plexiglass, hand sanitizer, and eating options during lunch. They set up a few outdoor seating tents as well as areas inside the school. The only problem was that the spacing between desks wasn’t gonna be 6 feet, this was concerning considering you would be in class for 55 minutes,” said Boyd.

Despite these safety measures, and additional precautions such as the installation of air purifiers, temperature checks and masks, Loyola was still forced to suspend in-person learning after just two days.

Sarah Nelson, a senior at Loyola, explained that the closure was a result of student actions outside the school rather than a fault of the school.

In a statement, Loyola said it moved to remote learning on Aug. 21 after learning that six students tested positive for COVID-19, and 63 others were in quarantine for issues related to exposure. Contact tracing determined that the cases originated from off-campus exposure, travel or symptoms.

Like Loyola, Rochelle Zell was forced to close down after only three days, when the principal tested positive for COVID-19. For Mia Latinik, a freshman at Rochelle Zell, the closing was not a surprise given how little the school can regulate students’ personal lives.

“I was not very surprised because whether we social distance in school or not people are going home and we don’t know where people have been so someone can easily bring COVID-19 to the school,” said Latinik.

Both Loyola and Rochelle Zell reopened their schools after a remote period, Loyola reopened on Sept. 8.

Although the year started off rocky, Nelson hopes that she and her friends will still manage a more traditional end to senior year.

“All my friends and I are hoping to have a semi-normal second semester, whether that’s hybrid etc. I think it really depends on how the winter goes, and if there is a vaccine that’s being distributed,” said Nelson.