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Algonquin’s District 300 votes to keep grades 4 through 12 remote until January

A crowd gathered at a D300 reopen rally Tuesday to have children return to in-person school at the Algonquin-based Community School District 300 Central Office on Harnish Road in Algonquin on Tuesday.
A crowd gathered at a D300 reopen rally Tuesday to have children return to in-person school at the Algonquin-based Community School District 300 Central Office on Harnish Road in Algonquin on Tuesday.

While Algonquin-based Community School District 300’s board approved bringing kindergarten through third grade students to a hybrid learning model as soon as it is safely possible, grades four through 12 will be remote until their second semester in January.

A specific date for kindergarten through third grade students to go to this hybrid model was not set at the meeting.

The decision to bring younger students to a hybrid model earlier is because kindergarten through third graders are at what board members say is a “pivotal” time in their education, and it is the age group that is struggling with remote learning the most.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, District 300 schools have been learning and teaching remotely since the beginning of the year.

At the meeting, a couple of hybrid models were proposed for kindergarten through high school students in October, although some school board members took issue with making this transition in the middle of the semester. 

“While remote learning is not perfect, I believe that students and teachers are getting into a rhythm,” board member David Scarpino said. “Changing in 17 days would upend what has been developed since the start of the school year.”

This change is not in their best interest, he said, especially since no one can accurately predict what is going to happen next with COVID-19.

Board member Leslie LaMarca said emails she’s gotten have run 50/50 in terms of whether people want some form of in-person or remote learning.

“I struggle with finding the rationale of interrupting kids in the middle of the semester,” LaMarca said. 

Board member Nancy Zettler said she is concerned that teachers and administration are not being given the information they need to reopen the right way.

“I’m afraid for the future if I’m right, and if the science is right,” Zettler said, explaining her reason for voting to stay remote.

The motion to allow kindergarten through third grade students to have a hybrid schedule was unanimously approved. 

There was a 6-1 vote on the motion to have high school and middle schoolers go to a hybrid model in January, and the other motion for fourth and fifth graders to do the same.

Board member Joe Stevens was the lone no vote on both motions, as he said he didn’t think the board should vote on this until December.

Protesters, asking the school district to reopen to in-person learning, before the meeting rallied in front of the district’s central office, holding signs that said “Get Kids Back in School,” singing “God Bless America” and talking about the issues they and their children had with remote learning.

Carpentersville resident Joseph Anderson, a single father of three children in District 300, said he just wants the choice for some in-person schooling.

“When they took away our choice, it also took away a lot of choices that I had myself, personally,” he said.

Anderson had to take six months off work to help his children with school. While he’s back at work now, he gets texts and calls from his daughter because she’s upset and nervous about the school year.

He said that while hybrid learning won’t be the same, and still have restrictions, the students are at least getting a foot in the door, and personal instruction from teachers.

“That’s something you can’t take away from kids,” Anderson said. 

Brandy Kittinger of Hampshire said her son, Roy, 8, needs special supports that remote learning isn’t giving him.

Teachers are great, Kittinger said, but the virtual learning format as a whole isn’t working for him.

“He’s falling further and further behind,” she said. “It’s really hard for him to focus. We love our school, love our teachers, we want to go back.”

Hybrid is a better choice, if Kittinger would prefer her son to go to school for normal hours every day.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, during a speech at the rally, said that with safety precautions in place, kids will have a safe environment to go to school in-person.

“This isn’t about politics,” he said. “This is about families making decisions for what’s best for those families.”

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