PRINCETON — Princeton High School hit a milestone Tuesday it wasn’t sure it would ever reach.
After a day for remote learning preparation day Monday, PHS transitioned into the start of the second quarter Tuesday morning. Students are now attending their classes for B Block, after spending the entire first quarter in A Block due to COVID-19 scheduling.
Admittedly, PHS principal Andy Berlinski didn’t know if they’d make it to this point in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the beginning of the school year, we were hoping to make it through the first week so students would have the opportunity to see their teachers in person for at least a couple days,” he said. “(Then) hopefully make it another week and another week after that. Some how, some way through several cases of COVID within students and staff have been able to make it work so far.
“If you were to tell we were going to get to administer the ACT last week to seniors, and be able to start in person to start the second quarter, with all the other schools dropping at the beginning of the year, I would have said, ‘Well, you’re crazy,’ or ‘Maybe by a lotto ticket, too.’ I think we feel very fortunate to be in the situation we are to be starting (second quarter). We’re just happy to have the opportunity to still have kids in the building.”
Berlinski said PHS stood at 10 total COVID-19 cases between students and staff during the first quarter.
“I think it’s probably in line with what we expected just knowing eventually you’re going to get a case and having to work through it. It’s hard to say, tomorrow we could get five or six more,” he said.
“What we’re happy about is the transmission never really occurred at school. I think that’s been a positive.”
There haven’t been any changes to protocol in handling COVID-19 as everything has worked well, Berlinski said.
“We’ve had students who’ve tested positive. Thankfully, we have not had to have any quarantined in the building,” Berlinski said. “So that means protocols as far as hallways, distances between desks in class have worked and have met the expectations of the Illinois Department of Public Health and Bureau County Health Department.
“We don’t foresee making any changes because then you run the risk of having a forced shutdown and we don’t want that.”
In a normal school year, the students would have classes every other day with “A” and “B” days. PHS’ “Return-to-Learn Plan” for this fall called for classes in A Block only for the first quarter with students transitioning to B Block starting out the second quarter.
“We just focused on them having four classes. Same with teachers, only having half their classes to run the first nine weeks and now this quarter we’re switching over to their other classes they would have had every other day. Now, they’re just going to focus on those four right now,” Berlinski said.
Some introductions were necessary Tuesday when students made the switch to their B Block classes, many meeting teachers for the first time.
“Especially for freshmen, most likely this is the first time those who are in-person are meeting their teachers today and tomorrow. Definitely, a first-time meeting for most of them,” he said.
Starting the second quarter, PHS saw a shift of about 40 students from remote to the hybrid format with in-person learning every other day. Of the 504 students enrolled, 263 students (52%) are in hybrid learning, 208 students (41%) are full remote and there are 69 students (14%), including IEP/504 students, or those who don’t have internet access at home, coming to school every day.
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