DeKALB – Despite objections from the DeKalb Classroom Teacher’s Association union about a return to in-person learning, the DeKalb District 428 school board voted unanimously to adopt the re-entry plan presented last week.
Interim Superintendent Griff Powell said that even though the plan is to begin with in-person learning for students two or three days a week, the situation is highly fluid. The only amendment made in the plan – which will include see students returning in-person for a half day of school twice per week on a rotating basis – was for elementary school dismissal to be at 12:15 p.m.
“Every day there are changes as we’ve all learned,” Powell said.
The DCTA said on July 21 that the members could not support a return to classroom teaching in the fall.
Co-president Mary Lynn Buckner started the school board meeting with a public comment, reading an email sent early Tuesday to the board.
Between the Illinois Federation of Teachers announcing on July 20 that they were urging schools not to open for in-person learning, a survey among its own members, and recent Illinois data, the union said they “cannot support any model of in-person teaching at this time.”
“We understand and respect the amount of work the administration team has put into the return to the classroom,” Buckner said. “We also appreciated that they listen to our concerns and tried to address them when presented. We understand that the district is doing this without any firm guidance from the federal or state level.”
Powell said the next step is to survey both parents and teachers. The district needs to find out how many students will attend the in-person classes, and how many will opt for remote learning. The district also needs to see how many teachers will be able to return for in-person instruction.
Then, Powell said, the district will make sure there are enough teachers to safely re-open.
According to the email, 90% (418 members) of the DeKalb teachers’ union responded to the survey. More than 72% said they support remote over in-person learning, and 70 members said they would not return in person due to medical concerns. More than 50% said they didn’t feel safe.
“We do not feel confident in our chances of returning without risking the health and safety of our students, our staff and the community at large,” Buckner said.
DCTA co-president Shawn LaPlante said the vote wasn’t unexpected after talking with Powell.
“They were looking to pass the plan,” LaPlante said. “I think it does have flexibility that doesn’t 100% say we are going to be teaching in person. But it does give them flexibility to pursue that option if they have enough staff moving forward.”
Powell said the district will determine at the Aug. 4 board meeting if there’s enough staff to move forward with in-person learning.
School Board President Sarah Moses referred to the plan as a skeleton plan, and said that flexibility made her comfortable in voting for it.
“It’s not set in stone that we won’t start with remote learning depending on where we are in terms of the virus and what staffing looks like based on the survey we send out and how many families send their kids for in-person learning,” Moses said. “I didn’t have hesitation getting this skeleton schedule down for an eventual return to in-person learning.”