Parents call on District 214 to reopen for in-person classes this fall
Some parents who want their kids back in school full time this fall object to Northwest Suburban High School District 214's preliminary plans that would have students spending at least part of their time learning from home.
The state's largest high school district, which includes six high schools, 12,000 students and 1,600 staff members, this week unveiled three possible scenarios for the fall semester.
But the "fully restored" option that corresponds with Phase 5 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan, where there would be no restrictions on large gatherings, is seen as "highly unlikely" during the first semester, Superintendent David Schuler wrote in a letter to parents.
That's due to the slim possibility an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 will become widely available.
What's more likely, Schuler said, is a blended or block-type schedule where a quarter or up to half of the students in a school are physically in the building at a given time, potentially on certain days of a week. That would ensure appropriate social distancing and the implementation of enhanced safety protocols, Schuler wrote.
Such a plan would correspond with Phase 4 of Pritzker's plan, which Schuler expects to be in place by the time school is back in session in August.
Under the current Phase 3, students would be in a fully remote learning environment.
"We must create a plan that provides flexibility to address the needs of our students and staff in an in-person and remote setting," Schuler wrote. "In all likelihood, the school day and student experience will look different this year. Our top priority is ensuring a safe and robust learning environment for all in District 214."
But some parents who got that letter wrote letters of their own to the superintendent, who read them out loud during the public comment portion of the district's monthly school board meeting, held via video conference Thursday night.
Many of them said they're willing to send their children back to school, whether there's a COVID-19 vaccine or not, due to the low risk for those under 18. Some added that students who may be sick or don't feel comfortable coming back to school could be provided an online learning option.
"They have already lost so much academically. I am not sure they will ever fully recover," wrote Jen Spotak, an Arlington Heights registered nurse who has two children who attend District 214 schools. "They need structure and stimulation that is provided by the school environment. They need to be with their friends and teachers to get the social support they desperately need."
Board President Dan Petro said district officials would consider the comments from the four parent couples who wrote to Schuler as part of future deliberations.
The district also sent out a survey to gauge people's opinions, available at my.thoughtexchange.com/858581781.
Officials plan to announce their finalized fall plans in July.