D65 parents discuss this week’s hybrid learning launch

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Graphic by Emily Sakai

Some Evanston/ Skokie School District 65 students returned to the classroom on Thursday.

Olivia Alexander, Reporter

Just a week after her twin sons started remote learning last spring, Dara Ury said she knew one of them would need to return to his Chute Middle School classroom as soon as possible. 

On Thursday, he stepped back into the Chute Middle School building for the launch of D65’s hybrid learning model. His twin is staying remote. Ury’s son going in-person has an individualized educational plan and a 504, a plan that ensures he receives needed accommodations. 

“I think that all of the ‘Return to school or don’t return to school’ is a very personal decision,” Ury said.

All pre-K through fifth-grade students were invited to return to District 65 classrooms last week. Some middle schoolers returned to classrooms Thursday, according to a plan that prioritizes students with free and reduced lunch, Emergent Bilingual and English Learner students, students with special education needs and students experiencing homelessness.

One of Ury’s sons, who is neurotypical, is continuing to learn remotely despite the hybrid learning launch. Ury said he is “perfectly fine” with the choice — he feels safer at home than he would feel interacting with other students in a school building. 

“We know that social distancing is very important, and we only want to send children in right now if it is absolutely necessary,” Ury said. “If a child can learn at home, and the parents and caregivers have the means to keep the child learning at home, do it.” 

Laura Schoenfield opted to keep her King Arts Elementary School second-grader home when his teacher decided to stay remote. Since he would have been in a classroom with a proctor, Schoenfield said she felt he would learn better at home with the teacher he is comfortable with. 

As a teacher at another district, she said she supported D65 giving teachers the option to continue to teach remotely. 

“I was really happy that the district seems to be giving teachers the leeway to stay home for now if they need to,” Schoenfield said. “So I was hopeful that people who were returning felt comfortable with it.” 

She said it’s disappointing to see families capable of staying home sending their students back to school, especially as the district prioritizes students with learning needs or whose families cannot afford childcare. 

Raechel Alexander, who recently lost a family member to COVID-19, also decided to keep her third grade daughter home. Alexander said she views working and learning remotely when possible as a way to keep the community safe. 

She said she hopes that the students returning to in-person learning are those who need school for safety and IEP instruction. 

She said her family believes in science and has had many conversations about the personal  sacrifices they can make to keep Evanston’s community spread low. 

“We shouldn’t be going back right now, that’s until there has been real testing, real tracing, and a real effort to do that,” Alexander said. “It’s going to be impossible to let 3000 small adults who have no fear back into a space.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oliviagalex

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