ORLAND PARK, IL — More than 50 Consolidated High School District 230 educators made their way through Orland Park, Palos Hills and Tinley Park in a car caravan Tuesday to voice concerns over the return to in-person instruction this school year.
At about 10 a.m., teachers lined their cars up at the D230 administration building. The caravan then made its way to Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, followed by Carl Sandburg High School, before wrapping up the drive at Victor J. Andrew High School.
The 30 or so cars beeped their horns and formed a line as a way to “highlight unanswered questions” and “[call] for the adoption of remote learning to start the 2020-21 school year,” according to a news release from the Illinois Education Association. The event took place after the district announced plans to implement a hybrid model of half-online, half in-person instruction.
Teachers association President Michelle Etchason said she wants to make sure everyone is safe before the return to in-person instruction. “I don’t think it is appropriate to go back … if you ask any of the teachers, they will tell you 5,000 times they do want to go back to school, but not when their safety is at risk,” she said. “We have to attend to the unknown in this situation.”
The president also said COVID-19 spreading around the schools is not a question of if, but when. “As educators we teach our students to stand against what is wrong. This goes against what we teach and will not end well … we love district 230 students, parents and teachers,” she said.
Mike Murray, an English teacher at Stagg High School and secretary for the union, said he attended the caravan to stand for students and teachers. “One way or another we will end up going remote. If we do go back to in-person instruction, I have a very strong feeling we won’t be there for long,” he said.
Murray noted that at Stagg High School, there will be approximately 600 students in the building daily. “It is going to be really hard to keep students six feet apart,” he said. “Schools around the area are taking different approaches and moving online. We don’t need to be the first district to figure out what in person instruction might be like [during the COVID-19 era.]”
More than 1,000 educators, parents, students and community members have signed petitions calling for the district board to approve remote learning at the start of the school year, according to the IEA news release.
In an email sent to students, families and staff Tuesday morning, Superintendent James M. Gay stated the Oversight Committee of D230 is committed to their reopening plan.
“[The plan] is focused on providing the best possible academic experience for students while adhering to the academic, health, and safety requirements set by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Our staged approach allows for flexibility to meet the needs of our community,” the email said.
The email listed several factors that the committee has been taking into consideration, such as feedback from the school Board, and public health guidelines from Cook County. “We anticipate receiving updated guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health later this week that may impact the planning stages,” it added.
Gay also wrote the reopening plan is flexible in order to address state, regional and local factors when deciding the “best path forward.”
Parents have until Aug. 12 to decided if they want to place their child in blended onsite/remote or fully online instruction.
For more information, visit the district’s website.
This article originally appeared on the Orland Park Patch