Marquardt District 15 teachers push for all-remote learning
Teachers in Marquardt Elementary School District 15 pressed the school board Tuesday night to return to all-remote learning out of concern for a surge in COVID-19 cases in DuPage County.
Teachers union brass called for suspending in-person instruction, calling attention to the pandemic's disproportionate toll on Black and Latino communities.
Black and Latino students comprise more than 60% of the district's population. The COVID-19 hospitalization rate among the county's Latino residents is 2.8 times higher than that of other groups, DuPage health department figures show.
"We need to do better. This is absolutely unacceptable, and we are calling for an immediate switch to remote learning," said Mary Lundquist, co-president of the union that represents about 200 teachers in the district.
Rank-and-file teachers questioned why the district has been an outlier among neighboring elementary and high school districts that have temporarily halted classroom instruction.
The Glendale Heights-based system feeds into Glenbard High School District 87, where students on Monday shifted to entirely remote learning after the county posted a weekly infection rate of 312 new cases per 100,000 people -- a new high.
District 15 teachers also sounded the alarm over the test positivity rate in Glendale Heights, now at more than 22% based on a seven-day rolling average.
"We are not opposed to in-person learning, but we are against unsafe learning," Lundquist said during the school board meeting Tuesday.
The district later this week will decide whether to continue in-person classes or take an instructional pause, Superintendent Jerry O'Shea said.
Since Oct. 19, the county health department has recommended schools operate with 100% remote learning as COVID-19 metrics keep DuPage at a "substantial" level of community transmission. Still, it's up to individual districts to decide whether to do so.
"We strongly believe that we should be following the advice of our experts," Lundquist said.
While teachers urged the board to publicly release the number of COVID-19 cases within the district, O'Shea said the district participates in weekly virtual calls with superintendents of DuPage schools and the county health department to review COVID-19 trends.
"Through the county and the data, they continue to assure us that the spread is not likely occurring in schools, and that the majority of the positive cases are related to community activity that are not adhering to the safety guidelines," he said.
Last week, the district launched an elementary hybrid learning model. The district's safety protocols are "up and running and running pretty smoothly at this point," O'Shea said.
"We closely monitor health data and metrics, staffing, quarantine restrictions, and safety protocols and equipment to determine the district's learning model and are mindful that we may need to shift between in-person and remote learning based on our ability to meet these criteria," O'Shea said in a statement before the meeting.
But Lundquist said teachers were told the district would move to remote learning if Queen Bee School District 16 paused face-to-face instruction because both share the same community.
"We were then told that if all the Glenbards went remote, we would then as well, and all of these things have come to pass," she said.