By Rafael Guerrero Naperville Sun
Almost one year to the day that many students attended their last full week of in-person classes, parents like Brea Khalid say school districts are not doing enough to get children back into schools.
“We want full days. We can’t do more of this two-and-a-half hours,” the Indian Prairie School District 204 parent said while participating in a huge Cross District Rally to Reopen Schools Sunday in downtown Naperville. Her children feel isolated, she said, and lessons via Zoom sometimes aren’t effective.ADVERTISING
Khalid was among several hundred people representing at least nine school districts who came together to demand they be given the option of returning their kids to the classroom full time five days a week.
Among the districts that had parents who helped organize the event were Naperville District 203, Indian Prairie District 204, Plainfield District 202, Geneva District 304, St. Charles District 303, Oswego District 308, Kaneland District 302, Hinsdale Township High School District 86 and Community High School District 99.
Chanting “five days a week,” many of those in the crowd estimated to be between 200 and 400 carried signs with such messages as “get our kids back in school” and “flip the school board.” A large number of those in attendance did not wear the face masks required by the Naperville Park District for COVID-19 safety.
One man dressed in a hot dog costume carried a sign reading, “Hybrid learning doesn’t cut the mustard.” The District 204 parent, who asked to be identified only as “hot dog man,” said, “All we’re asking for is an option … it’s not too much to ask.”
John and Shelly Wallace, who moved to Naperville from Madison, Wisconsin, last year, have three children enrolled in Naperville District 203 middle and elementary schools.
Their experience with remote and hybrid learning has been mixed, they said, with two of their kids having positive experiences with remote learning. They found things became more complicated when they switched them to hybrid learning, they said.
“This has been a learning curve for all of us,” Shelly Wallace said. “But we’ve asked a lot from our kids for too long.”
Khalid said she had to give up her job in order to be home to help with remote learning for her children, who attend Spring Brook Elementary and Gregory Middle School. She knows they’re fortunate because they could give up her income, she said.
“But what of the families who aren’t as fortunate?” she asked.
Paul Vallas, former Chicago Public Schools CEO, was one of the event’s main speakers at the Riverwalk’s Free Speech Pavilion. He described remote and hybrid learning as a “war on children” and a “war on working families,” especially those headed by single women.
“We’ve got to get our schools reopened,” Vallas said. “We’ve got to allow parents the option of continuing to have their children learn remote. But there’s no reason with what we pay on schools in this country … schools have been closed for close to 12 months. How are we spending our money?”
Also speaking was state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville, who is running for governor. He said it was unacceptable that classes, sporting events and things have been canceled over the past school year.
“I served as a school board member for 17 years, I’m a father of four and I know the importance of the education and the future of this great state and great country,” Bailey said. “Our kids need to be in school.
“Gov. Pritzker and the political elites, they failed us, they failed our schools, they failed our students, they failed our future,” he said.
Brent Lightwood, an Oswego District 308 School Board member, said he wants an immediate return to in-person learning on a full-time basis.
“I was told I have to make it clear I’m not here on behalf of the board or speaking on behalf of the board. But I sure wish they all agreed with me,” Lightwood said.
Kyle and Lima Montgomery, who made the trek from Gurnee to attend Sunday’s event, said their situation with two children attending Woodland School District 50 is similar what many are experiencing in the Chicago suburbs. Hybrid instruction in Woodland began just recently, they said.
“Some people are OK with that, but we don’t think that’s good enough,” Kyle Montgomery said.
original article: chicagotribune.com