Questions remain as schools try to map out plan for fall classes amid pandemic

Chicago News

BERWYN, Ill. — There are still plenty of questions and concerns surrounding in-person schooling in Illinois this fall. Some educators warn there likely won’t be an answer that satisfies everyone.

School districts across the area have been slowly rolling out their plans for the fall, but many more are still in limbo.

With school set to start in about a month, Berwyn North School District 98 Superintendent Dr. Michelle Smith is still weighing whether there will be a hybrid of in person and online learning, or strictly online.

“What we know is that face-to-face in person instruction is what’s good for kids. However, the health and safety of children and the adults teaching them have to be a priority as well,” Smith said.

Especially since in west suburban Berwyn, COVID-19 rates as of Monday were coming back at 22% positive of those tested. A survey sent out to parents found them split almost 50/50 about remote learning. Eighty percent of her teachers said they were physically able to come back to school but many expressed fears about the number of students in the classroom, including those with compromised immune systems. She’s calling for everyone to be patient.

“There are going to be some things along the way that we don’t think about the things that we don’t figure. That’s at the state level that’s at the school level, the district level, all of that,” Smith said.

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy Devos have pushed for in person classes, but Gov. JB Pritzker said the health and safety of everyone involved has to be the No. 1 priority.

“Not just pushing everybody back in schools just because the president says he like to see that, but rather being careful,” Pritzker said.

Dan Montgomery is the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and said if school districts go too fast, there may be more outbreaks.

“School district leaders to be working with your teachers and staff and parents now to figure this out,” Montgomery said.

Jennie Biggs is the communications director for Raise Your Hand, a coalition of parents and concerned citizens who advocate for quality public education.

“I can say for sure there’s going to be no good answer,” she said. “And there’s going to be no answer that 100% of parents are going to be happy with.”

Smith said she expects to have a decision by next Monday about which plan she will put forth first. 

Chicago Public Schools expects to reveal its plan sometime this week. On Tuesday, Pritzker announced he has authorized $50 million in emergency relief funding for pre-K through through 12th grade schools in light of COVID-19, part of which will go toward helping to close the digital divide.

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