Parents, students rally to reopen Algonquin District 300 to in-person learning

  • Demonstrators hold signs along Harnish Road Tuesday during a rally for the reopening for in-person learning at the Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 Central Office in Algqonquin.

    Demonstrators hold signs along Harnish Road Tuesday during a rally for the reopening for in-person learning at the Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 Central Office in Algqonquin. Matthew Apgar/Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 9/9/2020 8:17 AM

Saying that remote learning has not been successful, a group of concerned parents and students from Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 rallied outside the Center Office asking district officials to reopen to in-person learning.

District 300 has been remote since the beginning of the year because of COVID-19.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Several speakers at the rally said they were worried for children's mental health and the social isolation they might feel from not seeing their friends.

One Algonquin resident, Sharon Vandermeir, said her grandchild, in kindergarten, is not learning anything.

"She gets distracted easily, she's bored, she doesn't like to sit in front of a computer for six hours a day," Vandermeir said. "The kids need an education, and Zoom is not an education."

Superintendent Fred Heid said there have been mixed reviews on remote learning.

"Some people have been incredibly successful and love it," he said. "What our teachers wanted to do was mirror the traditional school day to the greatest extent possible. (Students) are engaging in the classroom, but just doing it through their device."

At a school board workshop meeting after the rally, Heid shared the administration's recommendation that elementary, middle and high schools go to a hybrid schedule for the district's second quarter, beginning Oct. 13.

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Under this plan, schools would have half of their students on campus each day, while the other half would work remotely.

A remote option would still be available for parents.

This hybrid plan now is possible, Heid said, because according to district data there are good systems in place to help mitigate and manage exposure events, additional personal protective equipment solutions have been sourced and social distancing is attainable.

However, he cautioned the school environment would still be different, as extra safety precautions are taken. Masks will be required when students are physically in the classroom.

A formal vote on this hybrid plan was not taken at Tuesday's meeting, but is set for 8 a.m. Friday.

Brett Corrigan, a Harry D. Jacobs High School sophomore who organized Tuesday's rally, said e-learning is failing students.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After posting this in a District 300 discussion page, he says he got a lot of blowback from parents. This spurred him to create his own Facebook page.

When doing work over the internet, Corrigan said, there's been a lot of technical issues, causing him to miss out on key instructions.

Although Corrigan said his teachers are doing the best they can with the situation, they are overwhelmed. One teacher told Corrigan she's getting hundreds of emails a week.

"Since they're getting so many emails, if I ask questions, the questions don't get answered," he said.

Corrigan said there are consequences to continuing with remote learning.

"We will never get these weeks back that we lost to poorly (conceived) and implemented remote learning nonsense," he said.

Tyler Jones, another sophomore at Jacobs, said with remote learning, students aren't getting the same experience they should be.

"There's several issues, network issues, that wouldn't happen if we were at school," Jones said.

When it comes to the technology issues, Heid said they have been working through them, such as working with AT&T to fix outages in the Lake in the Hills area.

In addition, the district has provided hot spots and devices to students, and teachers have multiple options for learning platforms to use in case one doesn't work.

On Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,392 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 252,353. Illinois' total number of deaths because of COVID-19 is 8,186.

While Corrigan acknowledged the cases in Illinois are increasing, he said it is important to look at other data such as hospitalization and death rates, as well.

"I believe we could do this in a safe manner," he said.

His mother, Kerry Corrigan, said as a single mom working full time, it is hard to help her kids when they are struggling in school.

Although her children are older, Kerry Corrigan said, she fears for those who have younger children, or children with disabilities.

"This is our future right here," she said. "(E-learning) is really going to hold them back."

Two Algonquin residents, former District 300 students Samantha Neylon, dressed in all black and a skull mask, and Melissa Ruby, dressed as the grim reaper, protested against reopening in person on Tuesday.

"(COVID-19) is not over because we want it to be," Neylon said.

Ruby said her concern is the students will bring COVID-19 home with them, where they have grandparents, parents or neighbors with preexisting conditions.

Ruby said she does not want any child to know the pain of losing a parent.

"I know that it's not ideal," Ruby said. "I understand that because I'm an educator myself. I don't like the situation either. But I think we have to think of other people more. We're all in this together."

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