Car rally held by residents in several Illinois school districts call for the return of in-person schooling

Photo Credit: James D'Angelo

Residents in Illinois School Districts # 109, 112 and 113 participated in a Car Rally on Saturday, showing their support for in-person schooling in these school districts.

“Parents are fed up with the lack of progress by our local school boards and administrators in getting our students back in school for in-person schooling,” said James D’Angelo, founder of Deerfield for In-Person Schooling (DIPS) and a parent of 2 students in Deerfield Public Schools District # 109. “We are uniting together in a safe and socially-distanced manner to show our leaders that inaction will no longer be tolerated. Our students need progress now.”

RELATED: Illinois family moving to Indiana for in-person learning and sports

The organizers of the rally say that remote learning is negatively impacting students, and they are pushing for school districts to create plans to increase the number of students receiving in-person education. 

"As parents, we want to encourage more dialogue on creative solutions that allow for a SAFE return to school in the near future. We appreciate that metrics are a key to decision making, but we also have to be open to consider the models of local schools," said Gail Behun, a parent of a student at Highland Park High School.

Photo credit | James D'Angelo

The following statement was sent to the Superintendent and School Board of Township High School District #113:
"We are medical doctors and parents of students in District 113. We have patiently and quietly waited and watched, hoping at some point we would see a well-thought out plan for school reopening that is in compliance with both medical and public health guidelines.
First and foremost, let’s be clear, cases of COVID-19 are currently rising and schools should not open for the first time during this increase. However, that is not an excuse to pause or stop the planning process.

Given the amount of confusing information put forth by the district in the past week, we can no longer stay silent. We have repeatedly heard various board members and administrators state how they are “not qualified” to make decisions regarding school reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic because they don’t have a medical background. We are medical professionals and now is the time for you to listen to us. We believe schools can and must reopen in January 2021 and NOW is the time to start preparing in earnest.
Back in March we all understood the importance of doing what we could within the parameters of safety. We commend the efforts put forth. We now have better knowledge regarding safety protocols, therapeutics and Illinois is one of the leading states in per capita testing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (Dr. Anthony Fauci) ISBE, IDPH and our Governor strongly recommended months ago that children return to in-person learning. Neighboring states, , all with much higher rates of cases and positive tests, have been successfully in the classroom for weeks.
Further, a Brown University study collected from more than 550 schools across 46 states found evidence that the coronavirus transfer rate is minimal (<1%) inside K-12 school buildings. This represents a nationwide outcome, in areas with varied levels of community transmission and financial means. We are a fortunate district in terms not only of financial abilities, but community resources and expertise to do better. Our kids deserve it!!!
Let us be clear – there will never be zero risk. There may not be a vaccine that allows us to go back to school January 2021. We need to learn how to live with the virus and plan education delivery accordingly. One might argue that any risk is too great, and that communities be completely COVID-19 free before moving to reopen schools. This is not only unrealistic and misinformed, but also ignores the enormous costs to children from closed schools. By not opening, you must recognize you are putting students at additional risks.
These risks include:
Poor learning retention
Food insecurity
Increased anxiety/irrational fears
Arrested development/irregular sleep patterns
Lack of motivation/inability to focus
Video game or porn addiction
Poor hygiene/obesity
Vision impairment
Drug/alcohol abuse
Abuse or violence in the home

We have yet to hear the Administration or Board even acknowledge let alone discuss the side effects of continued education by isolation.
The current numbers are not zero, which for some people means the numbers are not good enough. However, let’s be clear: zero was never a realistic expectation. We know that students can and do get Covid-19. They can get it in a classroom, a store, at band practice at the baseball field, etc. However, mitigations in school including the symptom screening app, universal masking, good hand hygiene/disinfectants and social distancing drastically decrease the transmission of the virus.
Even more disconcerting and unsettling is that there is no plan in place by District 113 to return to campus. While neighboring districts have plans in place, we have seen none and no timeline for one. Yes, these schools have their issues with reopening, but they have created an actionable plan to open that includes closing for appropriate additional mitigation or quarantine efforts when necessary. WE HAVE NO PLAN. That is simply not acceptable and can no longer be tolerated. You and your vast team have had months to work on these plans and there needs to be some accountability and deliverables presented to our community.
Finally, we agree and sympathize with the fact that no superintendent or board member should be in this position or is qualified to make public health decisions without appropriate guidance from the medical community. Therefore, we urge you now to listen to us and plan in full intent and transparency to open the schools in January 2021. The risk from Covid-19 is manageable, just as we manage the risk from the hundreds of other issues that impact child safety."

On Friday, Illinois broke yet another COVID-19 caseload record, suprassing 15,000 new cases. Additionally, due to the surge in cases, both Chicago and Cook County suburban residents were issued a stay-at-home advisory, asking people to only leave their houses for essential reasons.