COVID concerns have tossed another curveball at Leo High School.
Three weeks after the resumption of in-person classroom instruction, Principal Shaka Rawls announced that Leo will return to remote learning beginning Monday, Nov. 9 and continuing through the Thanksgiving break, which starts on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
“This is being done out of an abundance of caution,” Mr. Rawls said. “The number of positive COVID tests in the communities we serve has elevated the risk factor to an unacceptable level.”
Leo began the school year with an upgraded and improved version of an on-line platform implemented last spring, when Gov. Pritzker ordered all state schools closed in response to the rapid spread of the Corona virus. Remote learning was in place throughout the first academic quarter, with classroom instruction resuming on Monday, Oct. 19.
Beginning Monday, Nov. 9, all classes will be taught remotely, although allowances will be made for students who would be unsupervised at home. Leo’s administrative staff will be working in the building, so a limited number of students will be allowed to come to Leo and attend classes remotely.
Teachers also will be available for on-line “office hours” for any students who may have missed or struggled with that day’s lesson. Leo hopes to resume classroom instruction on Monday, Nov. 30.
“This process has been difficult for everyone, but the buy-in and cooperation from the teachers has been exceptional from the outset,” Mr. Rawls said. “Teachers teach better and students learn better in a classroom setting. We all believe that one of the best things about being at Leo is being at Leo—the kids interacting with their teachers and with each other, developing that bond that means so much to us. You don’t get that through a computer screen. You have to be here.
“But the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty, families … everybody involved with Leo is always going to be our top priority.”
Athletics and other extracurricular activities remain on hold as Gov. Pritzker’s Department of Public Health and the IHSA continue to battle over the risk levels of various sports.
Plans remain in place for football to play a seven-game spring season. Basketball might also become a spring sport; following a recent spike in positive COVID tests, the Department of Public Health upgraded the basketball risk factor, postponing, for the time being, a December-to-February, conference-games-only schedule the Chicago Catholic League had hoped to implement. Talks among Catholic League members are ongoing, but basketball competition is on hold till further notice.
The cross country season went on as scheduled, although state-level competition was eliminated. Bowling also has been deemed safe enough to be held. Wrestling, its risk factor also upgraded, has been moved to the summer, with baseball likely to follow owing to an overcrowded spring schedule.
The world-renowned Leo Choir also has been silenced temporarily, as state officials cited communal singing as a risk factor in spreading the virus and banned it.
“We’ll make adjustments as needed,” Mr. Rawls said. “We’re Leo. We’ll find a way to make this work.”