#childsafety | D140 Meeting Set After Mixed Reviews Of Back-T0-School Plan

TINLEY PARK, IL — The regular Board of Education meeting for Kirby School District 140 lasted over two hours Thursday night. After parents protested the back-to-school plan and board members stated they understand their concerns, officials proposed of a committee as a whole meeting to have parents voice their opinions and suggestions to the board.

The district is offering two learning methods for students in the second quarter. These include a combination of daily in-person instruction and remote classes, or a completely remote option, according to the district.

The combination model would include an A/B schedule, meaning students would be divided into two groups. Group A would attend in person in the morning for 2.5 hours and learn remotely at home in the afternoon for 2.5 hours. Group B would learn remotely at home in the morning for 2.5 hours and attend in-person in the afternoon for 2.5 hours, according to the district.

Protestors gathered outside holding signs and expressing concerns before the meeting began. Some said they came out to let board members know their kids are not handling remote learning well and their mental health is not in the best state. Others said they know this is challenging for everyone, but there needs to be a different plan.

Parents holding signs, protesting the back to school pan proposed by the district. (Yasmeen Sheikah/Patch).

The model has parents divided. At the meeting, 18 emails sent from parents were read by the board. Some emails told the board they understand the situation is difficult for all and others said a full transition back to classrooms needs to happen for students to pass their courses.

Not all parents who showed up were allowed in due to CDC guidance on COVID-19. Those parents who attended the meeting in person held signs in protest of the back to school plan. Many protestors spoke to the board about their own challenges with e-learning.

“I want our children to thrive in our schools … I want people to exercise empathy and I won’t settle for ‘you can’t always get what you want.’ I’ll fight until our children actually get what they need,” one parents said.

“My kid went through three sessions of preschool because she has sensory issues. Now she’s in kindergarten, and she cries, hates it and asks when she could leave because too much screen time is turning their brains into mush,” a Fernway School parent said, adding that her child in third grade is falling behind because he leaves class to help his sister with technical issues.

“My kids have two working parents and a 73-year-old grandfather who just had surgery. We can’t help them. I had to tell my third-grader ‘You’re going to fail and go back to second grade because we have to work,'” the Fernway parent said.

Superintendent Shawn Olson, told parents and board members he understands why people are frustrated during this time.

“The goal is to get the children back in school, full time and safely,” Olsen said. “As soon as we have the ability to do that there’s no question that’s what we want to do. It’s what the teachers want, the parents want and the students want… it’s what people want. But we have to do it in a way that’s safe.”

Board President, Thomas Martelli told parents that the back to school plan is in the best interest of the students because they will be in classrooms five days a week, rather than select days. Martelli presented the possibility of holding a committee meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 29.

“We hear your concerns,” Martelli said. “We need to have a time to host a committee as a whole meeting, to let the community come and ask questions… Some of those can get really out of hand. But I think we need to do this because some of the parents have legit questions.”

Martelli said they will look into the specifics of the meeting and let parents know when it could happen and how many people can come. Talk of holding the meeting in a gym was mentioned as a possibility, but nothing has been confirmed as of Friday.

As previously reported by Patch, some parents in the district have signed a petition against the back to school plan, which the board said will go into effect Nov. 3. Some parents shared the petition at the board meeting, telling members it has received hundreds of signatures.

Olsen said in a statement Friday morning that the district understands that families have different needs and circumstances.

“Over the past month, we have heard from several families who appreciate our learning models and also from many who wish we could provide different options for their students. We understand that families have varying needs and circumstances. Achieving our objective to provide the safest and best possible education remains our highest priority. As time passes and individual concerns shift, the District’s commitment to providing the best quality education, while complying with established safety guidelines remains unchanged.”

“We will continue to monitor State guidance and evaluate our 2020-21 learning models on a quarter-by-quarter basis.”

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