ST. CHARLES – The group Reopen D303 High Schools is accusing the head of Dist. 303's teachers union of peddling fear in reference to comments he made to St. Charles school board members on Monday about the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the area.
"Less than one percent of our students and staff have been affected by COVID-19 since the start of the school year on Aug. 19," the group said in an email. "There will be cases just like the common cold and flu. Our safety measures are proving effective at keeping case numbers low. Fear mongering by Union President Joe Blomquist is unacceptable. It is detrimental to our students who want to be in school to use fear rather than facts to determine if our school should remain open. The data supports remaining open."
According to the COVID-19 case dashboard on the district's website, as of Tuesday, District 303 has seen 94 COVID-19 cases since Aug. 19, including 40 active cases (confirmed cases that have been reported in the past 14 days). The majority of the cases – 69 – involve students; 25 cases have involved staff members.
During the board's business services committee meeting on Monday, St. Charles Education Association President Joe Blomquist addressed the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We cannot deny that the numbers in the community and in the schools are increasing rapidly and the 1,500-plus members of our three associations certainly worry about our own health and safety as you send us into these buses and buildings," he said.
Blomquist said he was not calling for “us to pull the plug on what we are doing” in the district. St. Charles East and St. Charles North high school students last week returned to the classroom as part of a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.
“But I am asking that before you pile on more initiatives and expectations on our already full plates, before you ask to receive more reports on what our teachers and staff are doing instead of letting them actually do it, before you stand up and say that in-person instruction will not impact whether staff members get hospitalized or not, come visit the front lines.
“Come see what instruction is looking like with masks and 6-foot social distancing. Come hear the stories of what D-303 employees are going through. Come hear the amazing things of what they are doing to reach their students and the painful reality they face when they are not able to get to a student through their academic or real-world obstacles,” Blomquist said.
In response, the group said, "there are no indicators that support closing our schools and moving to remote only education at this time."
"The focus should be on academics," the group said in the statement. "It is time to focus on education and make that a priority while following the necessary safety measure to keep our students and staff safe while in-person learning is occurring. The majority of families in D303 want and are participating in in-person learning."
During Monday's meeting, Superintendent Jason Pearson talked about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in his superintendent’s report.
“Our schools are a reflection of our broader community, and so as we see an increase in cases in our community, we’ll see an increase in cases in our schools,” he said. “It just really emphasizes the importance of all the health and safety measures that we have in place.”
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