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Oswego

Oswego School District parents continue call for return to in-person instruction

Oswego School District 308 parent Katie Heiden encouraged the Board of Education to stop relying on handouts and grants for financing, and instead look towards businesses for support during her comments at the Sept. 28 meeting of the board at Oswego East High School.
Oswego School District 308 parent Katie Heiden encouraged the Board of Education to stop relying on handouts and grants for financing, and instead look towards businesses for support during her comments at the Sept. 28 meeting of the board at Oswego East High School.

Oswego School District 308 parents continue to push for the district to return to in-person education, with more parents raising concerns over remote learning during the Sept. 28 meeting of the Board of Education.

The Board voted 5-2 Aug. 3 to start the 2020-2021 school year Aug. 24 under a "Remote For All" plan for the district's teachers and 16,800 students due to the pandemic. The Board, however, also agreed to review the status of the fully remote program after six weeks.

A proposal for a plan to return to classrooms was presented at the Sept. 28 meeting, but will not be voted upon until Oct. 13, at the board's next meeting.

Comments made by parents at Monday's meeting echoed many made at previous meetings, highlighting the problems families are experiencing under remote learning.

"The interaction children have with face-to-face learning offers more growth in development and helps children mature," parent Juliet Anderson wrote to the board. "I'm not a teacher and having to switch from helping a junior, eighth grader, third and first graders has proven to me that I just can't keep up.

"I understand online may work for some families, but it doesn't work for mine."

District parent Aaron Mindeman wrote to the board, describing the experiences of his high school freshman daughter under remote learning.

"She comes to me all the time stating she is constantly getting kicked out of her Google classroom, that is if she is even able to enter at all," Mindeman wrote. "She tells me she feels like she is learning nothing as these glitches happen so frequently."

Mindeman told the board that his daughter is struggling to figure out her assignments when she is experiencing so many problems with the Google Classroom format, adding that his daughter has asked to be pulled out of school and homeschooled.

"Her anxiety levels are high as she is struggling with e-learning greatly," he said.

District parent Katie Heiden spoke in person at the meeting, to question the district's financial concerns.

"My biggest question is, I keep hearing you guys talk about 'Where are we going to get the money?', 'How are we going to get this?', 'What grants can we get?'," Heiden said. "The biggest thing I don't hear coming out of anybody's mouths, and it's really hard for me to hear it, is how are we going to make the money?"

Heiden encouraged the district to find funding sources from area businesses and entrepreneurs, saying, "Our federal government, our nation is broke. The state of Illinois is hurting and is broke. We can't keep anticipating to get handouts.

"We have so many great local businesses, entrepreneurs, that I'm sure would be more than happy to collaborate, give ideas, do programs," Heiden, a local business owner said, adding that she would be happy to work with the district on such programs or ideas.

"We've come a long way, and I think it's amazing to see the difference, but I understand population and growth is hard. But I keep seeing these things about increased tax revenues and property values," she continued. "How can we increase proprerty values, if now we're talking about our schools being funded somewhere around 50% with the decrease from COVID?

"I appreciate everything that you do, but I really think it's time that you guys need to start bringing some enterpreneurs into the picture. How can we make the money, how can we not be so dependent on the state, the grants, the handouts. Let's try to make it from within and be self-sufficient."

But not all who spoke at Monday's meeting were in favor of returning to learn in-person. District parent Julie DiCaro encouraged the district to "stay the course and try again in the spring" in her letter to the board.

"It's amazing that we're even considering sending our kids back to classes, as the pandemic is worse now than when school shut down in April," DiCaro wrote, adding that the group supporting in-person education "seems to be driven by a vocal minority of parents" who want their child in school either for sports, or to have a "normal" senior year of high school.

"Nothing is normal right now," she continued. "Pretending things are normal won't make them so. And frankly, there are too many people in our community who haven't taken this seriously from the start, and definitely don't adhere to social distancing and mask guidelines at home."

"If we can't get adults to be responsible with masks, how do we expect students to keep each other safe?," she asked. "The minute school resumes in person, we're at the mercy of every other person in this community, many of whom have continued having parties and get togethers through this entire pandemic."

The Board of Education will next meet at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 13, at Oswego East High School.

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