District 21 switches to remote learning for start of school year
On a day that saw the highest daily increase in Illinois' confirmed COVID-19 cases in more than two months, the Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 board voted unanimously to change course and start the new school year exclusively with remote learning on Aug. 20.
Their vote Thursday endorsed a plan presented by Superintendent Michael Connolly that included "worrisome" changes in the data and conditions upon which the previous decision to offer a choice between in-person and remote learning was based.
Among that new information are questions about the previously held beliefs on the transmission of the virus among young children, Connolly said.
"There is uncertainty in the public health community," he added.
But the revised plan includes a tentative goal to return to in-person learning for those families that choose it on Monday, Oct. 5. A decision about the ability to meet that goal is expected by Friday, Sept. 25, Connolly said.
The 35 public comments made both in person and via Zoom during the board meeting ran the gamut from total agreement to total disagreement. Those angered by the change asked for more data than had been provided during Connolly's initial presentation.
Board President Phil Pritzker said the new questions would be answered in a "Frequently Asked Questions" section soon to be posted on the district's website, https://ccsd21.org/.
The only comments Pritzker chose to address immediately were those alleging political motives for the changed plan.
"This is not a political issue for us," Pritzker said. "We're not elected by any political party."
Connolly did promise a more sophisticated and robust approach to remote learning than had been quickly improvised in the spring. Teachers will address students from their classrooms and engage them for five hours of structured learning each day, he said.
District 21 has 13 schools serving about 6,200 students in parts of Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Prospect Heights, Mount Prospect and Arlington Heights.