Need that in-person instruction or too risky? Parents' reactions to school reopening mixed

  • Anna Hwang of Aurora leans toward keeping her children Elsa, 6, and Alena, 8, home from school when it reopens in the fall.

      Anna Hwang of Aurora leans toward keeping her children Elsa, 6, and Alena, 8, home from school when it reopens in the fall. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Anna Hwang of Aurora is leaning toward keeping her children Alena, 8, and Elsa, 6, home from school when it reopens in the fall.

      Anna Hwang of Aurora is leaning toward keeping her children Alena, 8, and Elsa, 6, home from school when it reopens in the fall. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/13/2020 6:46 AM

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.

Martha Paschke of Geneva, second from right, with her husband, Jeremy, and three children, Hannah, 17, a senior at Geneva High School, Eli, 15, a high school junior, and Jay, 11, a seventh-grader at Geneva Middle School North. Paschke is concerned about schools reopening this fall and the risk it poses for students and teachers.
Martha Paschke of Geneva, second from right, with her husband, Jeremy, and three children, Hannah, 17, a senior at Geneva High School, Eli, 15, a high school junior, and Jay, 11, a seventh-grader at Geneva Middle School North. Paschke is concerned about schools reopening this fall and the risk it poses for students and teachers. - Courtesy of Martha Paschke
by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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 his 18-year-old son, Jesus Grifaldo Jr., will attend Northern Illinois University in DeKalb this fall and 11-year-old son, Anthony, will start seventh grade at Round Lake Middle School. "They need their education and also they need to interact with other people, because staying home is frustrating for them," Grifaldo said.
Jesus Grifaldo, of Round Lake Beach, said his 18-year-old son, Jesus Grifaldo Jr., will attend Northern Illinois University in DeKalb this fall and 11-year-old son, Anthony, will start seventh grade at Round Lake Middle School. "They need their education and also they need to interact with other people, because staying home is frustrating for them," Grifaldo said. - Courtesy Jesus Grifaldo

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.

Juanita Grifaldo, of Round Lake Beach, with her children, Anthony, 11, who will attend seventh grade at Round Lake Middle School this fall, Jesus Grifaldo Jr., 18, who will attend Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and 3-year-old daughter, Samarah, who will stay home instead of going to preschool during a pandemic.
Juanita Grifaldo, of Round Lake Beach, with her children, Anthony, 11, who will attend seventh grade at Round Lake Middle School this fall, Jesus Grifaldo Jr., 18, who will attend Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and 3-year-old daughter, Samarah, who will stay home instead of going to preschool during a pandemic. - Courtesy of Jesus Grifaldo

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.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.