ALGONQUIN, IL — Students and parents of District 158 students plan to hold a peaceful protest outside the district's administrative building in Algonquin Thursday evening. The District 158 Board of Education will also be meeting Thursday evening and the rally is meant to bring attention to the concerns parents and students have regarding e-learning and their desire to return to in-person learning, as well as athletics and other school-sponsored activities, this fall.
The rally will be held from 5:15 to 7 p.m. in the parking lot at the administrative offices, 650 Dr. John Burkey Drive. Dana Wiley, one of the parents responsible for organizing the rally, said about 100 people are expected to attend.
Like most school districts throughout the Chicago area, District 158 opted to start its school year with remote learning. Administrators set Oct. 16 as the deadline for revaluating whether to continue with e-learning or move forward with different options as Chicago area school officials continue to grapple with how to balance educational needs and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
At Thursday's school board meeting, superintendent Scott Rowe will present the administration's initial plans for returning to in-person instruction. The presentation will be for informational purposes and the school board will have the chance to discuss the proposal, voice their thoughts and ask questions.
A formal vote will not be made at the meeting.
Rowe, in a letter to parents on Friday, wrote that returning to "traditional schooling" is not an option.
"The reality remains that a full return to traditional schooling at this point is not possible. I reiterate that we would love to have an option to return to traditional schooling for all students and families who desire it," he wrote. "Unfortunately, no amount of desire or demand will make this possible, and we know that a rush to return based on these desires would likely result in catastrophic outcomes."
This past week, the school district began bringing back some of its special education students on a limited basis, according to Rowe's letter and D158 Facebook posts. After that, the school district will bring in select students for academic interventions. And from there, the school district is hoping to have all of its elementary students back in its buildings. Rowe wrote.
"We ask for continued patience as we plan these opportunities," he wrote in his Friday letter. "Under the current circumstances, even a partial return to in-person learning requires an extraordinary amount of preparation and care."
Wiley said many parents and students are upset with the lack of transparency among district officials. She also said no parents have been asked to participate on any committees to help make the determination on whether their children should return to school.
"Our board was elected by us, and yet has done little to anything to be vocal in their constituents wishes to return. We have not heard from them at all on the matter," Wiley wrote to in an e-mail response to Patch. "They have told parents it was not their decision to not return, it was an administrative one. How are they representing us when the majority of parents wanted to go back or were still yet undecided. No focus groups have been put together, no town halls (even virtual) have been done to better explain things to parents."
She added that in the long term, continuing with remote learning could hurt District 158. She said parents will move to school districts nearby that are offering in-person instruction, such as school districts in Marengo or Roscoe, or out of state to get their kids back into the classroom.
"As we lose tax dollars from these families, we cannot stay fiscally responsible and relevant as a district, and those dollars that go away could hurt us long term on good staff and good infrastructure needed to be the excellent district we are known to be," she said.
Those attending Thursday's "D158 We Stand For Student's Rally" are encouraged to wear their school colors or spirit-wear. Athletes can wear their jerseys or uniforms. Those attending are reminded to wear masks and to make and bring signs with.
More information is available on the Facebook page set up for the rally, and those interested in speaking at the rally or school board meeting are encouraged to send a private message to the event organizer.