LHS plans to open for full in-person learning next fall


Jacob Short

Principal Tom Koulentes is hopeful that for the 2021-22 school year, things can return as close as possible to a pre-Covid-19 LHS. One goal the school has for next year is to accommodate students in the lunchroom for eating and study hall, but they are going to continue working closely with the district and local health authorities to determine if this is a possibility.

As this school year draws to a close, the D128 administration has started establishing plans for the upcoming school year. Although the future of next school year is still uncertain, the administration plans to restore much of what pre-pandemic LHS looked like.

LHS Principal Tom Koulentes explained how he and the administration are hoping for a normal school year in 2021-22. 

“The plan is, to every extent possible, restore what we would call ‘normal, pre-pandemic LHS,’ everything we were doing on March 12 of 2020. We would get as much of that back in place as we could,” he said. 

This would include students coming back to LHS full-time and staying on campus for an entire eight-period day, including during lunch hours. Additionally, sports, clubs and other activities would operate normally. 

In a message from Superintendent Prentiss Lea posted on April 16 on the D128 website he stated, “As a qualifier, if pandemic-related conditions deteriorate dramatically, the D128 Board retains all decision-making authority to comply with related state mandates, requirements and guidance.” 

Dr. Koulenetes added that he believes students will most likely have to wear masks and that LHS will still need to keep social distance in classrooms next year. He explained, however, that this is a guess on his part and all official guidance will eventually be released by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

While full-time, in-person learning is not definite yet, Dr. Koulentes explained that the goal would be to have as many students back in the building as possible. 

“What we don’t know is if there will still be students who, due to health requirements, need to learn remotely and if that is the case, then we absolutely want to help those students and support those students,” said Dr. Koulentes.

The administration is still discussing what the learning model for these students will look like: either a continuation of the hybrid model of this year or an option where online students are grouped into the same classes and learn together remotely. 

Another significant change to next year’s learning model will be the return back  to the eight-period schedule. Dr. Koulentes explained that during the beginning of the pandemic, the district decided it needed to create a new schedule to accommodate remote learning. 

However, since the district is planning for students to go back to school full-time next year, they wanted to implement the pre-pandemic schedule to create a sense of normalcy. 

“We do recognize that there were a lot of people who liked our block schedule and elements of what we were doing with our pandemic schedules, but we didn’t have the ability to bring everybody together to talk about all the things we could do or all of the options we would have in a very quick amount of time,” said Dr. Koulentes. “We basically build our whole schedule for next year during the months of March and April and because we didn’t have the time to do a full-scale examination [of if the block or hybrid schedule is better], the district said we’re going back to what we did before.” 

The administration is still assessing what lunch would look like, especially considering social distancing and a shorter lunch period. One option the district has been considering would be to have lunch release for all grade levels, but one major issue would be that lunch is only 45 minutes, making it difficult for students without a car on campus to get home and eat. 

Another option would be to split each lunch period into “A and B groups that allows us to have less kids come at a time, but then [that] would only leave 22 to 25 minutes of lunch time [for each group],” Dr. Koulentes said. 

While the future of next school year is still uncertain, the administration plans to renovate multiple parts of LHS over the summer.

The old fieldhouse will be torn down and a new one will be built in its place. New air conditioning and heating systems will be installed in smaller areas of the school to improve air circulation to lessen the threat of Covid-19 from spreading. All of the water fountains and the LED lights in the hallways will be replaced, and the parking lot curbs will be fixed. 

Junior Paige Bleck expressed her excitement for the spirit aspect of next school year: “I feel like [for] the seniors, spirit is their number-one priority and setting that up for the rest of the school, creating that culture for LHS and showing we’re proud to be here.” 

Dr. Koulentes added, “For 50% of our students, the school is brand new, so it’s really just the senior class next year that will remember what pre-pandemic Libertyville was all about, and I’m going to need the seniors to help restore our school community and bring back Libertyville High School’s school spirit.”