Board reverses WHHS return decision

WHHS will remain online until three foot distancing is approved for all CPS schools

On Feb. 8, the CPS Board of Education voted to keep WHHS in distance learning until the district adopts three-foot social distancing as the minimum in all schools.

This decision halts the hybrid plan that was announced in January. WHHS had released detailed plans for an expected return on Feb. 16. The hybrid model is now postponed until further notice.

The Board’s decision to reconsider came after many parents and students expressed concern about the three-foot distancing. WHHS was set to be the only school with less than six-foot social distancing, due to its large student body.

The CDC Considerations for Schools recommends that schools, “space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.”

“We need to be consistent across what we’re saying is safe,” Board Member Pamela Bowers said.

Other CPS high schools will continue to transition to in-person instruction with six-foot social distancing beginning Feb. 16. WHHS can join them if CPS amends its distancing guidelines for all schools.

President Biden told CBS that new Covid-19 guidelines regarding schools may be released this week. Shifting federal guidelines may impact CPS’ stance on social distancing requirements.

Before the vote was taken, many members of the community spoke in favor of the resolution to keep WHHS online.

WHHS parent and pediatrician Jilda Vargas Adams expressed concern about a lack of data supporting three-foot distancing.

“I’m asking you today as a scientist, to follow the science. This is something we teach our kids, science is real, rational decision making is important,” Vargas Adams said, “…[The CDC has] also promised new guidance this week. So let’s pay attention to that and see where this institution walks the walk and shows our kids that science is what guides us.”

Louis Ke, ‘23, also brought up academic concerns, citing the fact that AP exams will be full-length tests of normal difficulty.

“We need as much instructional time as we can have, but returning to the blended model would cut that time in half,” Ke said, “The other option would be CDA, but I along with many of my classmates at Walnut feel that just puts us at a crossroads between risking our education or risking our health.”

Some, including WHHS parent Diana Christie asked the board to stick with their initial hybrid return plan. 

“Three to six feet can be safe, but in many instances we are able to maintain the six foot distancing, and the students will be wearing their masks,” she said. 

Ultimately, the motion to keep WHHS virtual for the time being passed five to two.