Need that in-person instruction or too risky? Parents' reactions to school reopening mixed
As a former teacher married to a teacher, Martha Paschke is concerned about schools reopening this fall and the risk it poses for students and employees.
Paschke worries teachers won't be able to get students to keep their masks on, wash hands or socially distance per state COVID-19 health guidelines.
"It's not enforceable," said Paschke, whose three children will attend Geneva Unit District 304. "I'm really just hoping not only for the students' sake but for the teachers' sake we can find some room for nuance and flexibility."
When District 304 surveyed parents, Paschke was optimistic about sending her children back to school with safety measures in place. Now, she's not so sure.
"With the cases dramatically rising now, I'm really starting to feel anxious about that decision," she said. "There is a lot that hasn't been weighed and considered," such as added risk for older teachers and those with health issues.
She's not alone in that conflicted feeling as suburban parents weigh reopening plans being crafted by their school districts.
Some favor schools resuming in-person instruction. Others prefer remote learning until the health risk abates. Still others say they prefer a hybrid instructional model of limiting the number of students returning to classrooms and allowing for remote learning.
What's the right educational approach for their children but still keeping them safe? No one is sure.
Jesus Grifaldo, of Round Lake Beach, said he's conflicted about sending his 11-year-old son, Anthony, to seventh grade at Round Lake Middle School, but like most working parents, he can't properly help or supervise online learning.
"The best way for these kids to learn is a face-to-face situation," Grifaldo said. "They need their education and also they need to interact with other people, because staying home is frustrating for them."
His 18-year-old son, Jesus Grifaldo Jr., will attend Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, but Grifaldo plans to keep 3-year-old daughter Samarah at home instead of sending her to preschool.
Parent Jackie Janega agrees online learning doesn't cut it, especially for students nearing the end of their K-12 education, such as her son, who will enter his senior year at Glenbard East High School in Lombard.
"They need that classroom feel," Janega said. "That motivates every kid."
She wants to ensure her son has the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT college entrance exams in person.
Assistance with learning through an auditory processing disorder is largely why Roseann Portiera wants to send her son to start his freshman year at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire in person.
"I felt the online/virtual learning that he did when he was an eighth-grader at Twin Groves was difficult for him," Portiera said. "He requires additional help and time. I feel that if he doesn't go back to school, he will fall behind his classmates."
Indian Prairie Unit District 204 parent Anna Hwang of Aurora is leaning toward keeping her two daughters out of school, if given the choice.
A stay-at-home mom, Hwang understands that being able to help her children learn virtually is a privilege many families with two working parents don't have. The only way she would consider sending her girls, one in third grade and another in first, to in-person classes would be if the district implements a mask requirement and social distancing "in a positive way."
However, District 203 parent Sean Hastings said he would prefer to send his two kids back to their high school without masks. It's what they want, too, after a spring of online learning they described as "terrible."
"Regarding masks, I do not believe they are effective even if worn correctly, which in any event, they are not worn correctly by adults, so to expect kids to? It's laughable," Hastings said.
Naperville Unit District 203 parent Adam Russo said the "hypocrisy around mask use is astounding," and that's just one of the reasons he would choose to send his kids to school in person.
"Those who can learn to thrive in these circumstances rather than remaining scared will be successful as they become adults," Russo said.