District 128 canidates discuss what post-pandemic school will look like
What will education at Vernon Hills and Libertyville high schools look like when the pandemic ends?
The 10 candidates running for four 4-year terms on the Libertyville-Vernon Hills High School District 128 school board addressed that question and what can be learned from the pandemic.
Incumbents Kevin Huber, a retired executive with the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and Don Carmichael, a retired high school teacher who was elected to an unexpired term two years ago, are seeking reelection.
Also running are Cara Benjamin, Jim Connell, Chris Coughlin, Kara Drumke, Sean Gay, Sonal Kulkarni, Dale Sherman and Katy Talerico.
Benjamin, Carmichael, Kulkarni and Drumke held a fundraiser as "Together for Continued Growth" and are endorsing each other.
Talerico, a pediatrician, said remote learning might continue to be an occasional option, but it isn't ideal.
"This is one of my fears that people will think this is a great way to educate our kids, through a screen," she said. "It's really not."
More needs to be done for kids to explore careers and college choices, she added.
"Whether it (the pandemic) goes away or not, we have to be back in school and make the adaptations to it," said Sherman, a corporate executive and attorney.
Lessons learned during the "forced exile" should be applied in coming years, Sherman said. Recording classes, for example, may have a place.
"That would be a nice take-away and nice way to augment the experience," he said.
Information technology executive Kulkarni said it should be easier for students to get practical experience.
While the district's academics and electives are good, Kulkarni wants to provide enhanced experiences outside the classroom.
"If you can have a student try different careers while they are in high school and can get credit for it under the curriculum, then they can be better prepared to understand maybe what they want," she said.
Huber said the pandemic has made teachers and the educational learning system better. Streaming, for example, will allow sick kids to learn without spreading illness and allow those with social phobias to participate.
"When we emerge we're going to be better," he said. However, there will be a lot to make up in terms of educational and social-emotional loss.
Wealth adviser Gay said he would like to see kids back playing sports or participating in plays or band without needing to wear masks.
"I would say if COVID-19 in a perfect world is gone ... I'd like to see our district get back the way it was in 2017, 2018, 2019 for sure."
Drumke, an attorney and reading interventionist at Fremont Elementary School in Mundelein, said district curriculum is at the cutting edge and prepares students for whatever path they choose.
However, some students are struggling, she said.
"If anything the pandemic has done, it has helped us to realize, 'Are we going to put our money where our mouth is on social emotional learning and social emotional health?'"
Coughlin said the district needs to "stretch our thinking" to improve.
"It would be a huge mistake if we didn't look at this as an opportunity for schooling in 2022 to be much different," he said. "It doesn't have to be greatly different but it has to be more dynamic."
Connell, owner of a social media marketing business, said the pandemic has prompted "innovation and rethinking and reframing around delivery of education."
"I think we would be remiss if we didn't as a future board have really good discussions around this idea of improvement and how we deliver everything from the social aspect to the academic aspect," he added.
Carmichael said use of videoconferencing platforms like Zoom will become much more common.
"I think it's going to change how attendance is taken. We're going to see a lot more flexibility in what it means to attend school," he said.
Benjamin, an on-hiatus high school English teacher and private ACT/SAT tutor, said the pandemic has reshaped how we look at school, work and function as members of society.
"We have also adapted in ways we didn't think possible," she said. "There may never be an official snow day again."