District 25 board remains divided in vote approving daily in-person learning
Amid calls for unity after a contentious Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 board election and reopening debate, divisions on the board were still evident in members' narrow 4-3 vote late Thursday to increase in-person learning to five days a week from four.
The schedule change, which would take effect April 26 and last through the end of the school year June 11, had the support of parents and students who've argued for the effectiveness of in-school learning over remote sessions.
But it was opposed by the teachers union, which sought to keep the weekly Monday remote sessions for extra planning time, small group and one-on-one instruction, and for all students to be on the same remote platform once a week.
"We, the teachers, have been left feeling discouraged and disrespected this year," said Kelly Drevline, president of the Arlington Teachers' Association. "Our discouragement comes from feeling like we have not been looked upon as members of this community for the first time in our school district's history."
Before their vote, Drevline asked board members to stand by their memorandum of understanding with the union about working conditions.
But the majority of the board sided with parents, who have been calling for a full reopening for months. The district has been under a four-day-a-week program since Jan. 21.
Currently, 85% of students attend classes in person for those four days, with the remainder having opted for remote all the time.
"In many homes throughout the district, Mondays involve children having meltdowns or simply disengaging in any or all activities. Parents feel defeated and hopeless," said Katie Rausch, who finished sixth in the crowded eight-person school board race.
Rausch and Todd Witherow campaigned with two pro-reopening board members, Rich Olejniczak and Gina Faso.
No matter their views on the reopening issue, voters this week seemed to favor incumbency above all else, sending back Olejniczak and Faso, along with Anisha Patel. They'll be joined on the panel later this month by newcomer Greg Scapillato, who, like Patel, favored Superintendent Lori Bein's more cautious reopening approach.
The continued division on school reopenings was seen in the board's vote Thursday night, which mirrored the result of their December decision against Bein's recommended temporary suspension of in-person learning, or so-called adaptive pause. Voting for full, in-person daily instruction were Olejniczak, Faso, Scott Filipek and Chad Conley. Patel, Brian Cerniglia and Erin Johannesen were opposed.
Even with the board's decision, Bein said, it's likely those six remaining Mondays in the school year would be slightly shortened days or have an early dismissal to give teachers prep time for both in-person and remote instruction.