Plainfield teachers push for remote learning when school resumes

'I just don't see how we can keep these children safe'

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Several teachers from Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 lined up Thursday to air their concerns about returning to in-person instruction for the upcoming school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Association of Plainfield Teachers union held signs as they lined up around the District 202 administration building. Each sign featured a specific concern or question the teachers had regarding how the district would handle having students back in school buildings while keeping them safe from contracting the novel coronavirus.

They had questions like, "How will traffic patterns be established and enforced in hallways?" and, "What happens if a student refuses to wear a mask?"

"First and foremost, our priority has to be the safety of these children," said Ed Flores, a math teacher at Plainfield North High School. "And if we are not remote, if we are in the building in some capacity ... I just don't see how we can keep these children safe, or ourselves for that matter."

The district came up with a proposal last week to begin the year with only remote instruction. Administrators would then have been able to reevaluate the possibility of returning to limited in-person learning in stages.

But the District 202 Board didn't approve the plan after a 3-3 vote last Monday and instructed the administration to come back with another proposal.

Flores said he thought the original proposal was "perfect" and "makes sense," but when it wasn't approved, he said, it was a "gut punch."

District 202 spokesman Tom Hernandez said Thursday the administration was working on another plan for the board to consider. While he couldn't comment on what that plan would entail, he said it was only a matter of how quickly the district can adopt a plan before school resumes next month.

APT President Dawn Bullock argued that enforcing social distancing during in-person learning would disrupt so much of school life that "familiar routines for our students will not be able to exist." She said even with half the student population, something like passing periods between classes would make social distancing "impossible."

Bullock said APT members were planning on meeting with the school board Thursday night to ask questions about what in-person instruction would look like.

"We are hoping that through our questions they will realize that a remote start is the safest way to phase back into the classroom while we are still trying to understand and control this virus," she said.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.