SYCAMORE – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dawn Marshall had never attended a Sycamore School District 427 board meeting.
Since the pandemic began, Marshall has avidly watched the board meetings streamed virtually and has been attending them in person to make public comment. Marshall has two daughters that attend Southeast Elementary School.
“When things were running smoothly without issues, there was no need for me to attend or speak up,” she said. “But there needs to be change and something has to happen.”
Marshall created the Facebook group District 427 Parents for In-Person Learning, which has more than 600 members. With other Sycamore parents, she helped create an online petition to open Sycamore School District 427 for full five-day in-person instruction.
The petition can be viewed and signed online at Change.org.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 400 people have signed the petition. The petition is for students in Sycamore High School, parents of students in the school district and Sycamore residents paying property tax.
Colette Montani, mom of a sixth grader and sophomore, sited the school district’s mottos and vision statements as her reason for helping create the petition.
“The motto is ‘Empowering all learners to succeed in their world,’ and I don’t see any of them succeeding,” she said. “The Sycamore Learning Community’s vision is to ‘provide an ideal learning experience where students and staff are engaged and want to come back the next day.’ That’s a pretty powerful statement, and it’s not being met. … The longer it goes on, the longer it seems like Sycamore doesn’t have a plan. What is the plan to have kids back in school five days a week? We can’t continue to do school like this and expect our kids to succeed.”
“The purpose of the petition is to implore the Sycamore school board to make some changes,” Marshall said. “All of the people who have signed the petition feel the same way. Nothing is changing or happening.”
Marshall said she worries “that the school board has already decided this school year is a wash-out.”
“But there’s still time, there are months still left in this school year,” she said. “We also need a more definite plan for the fall.”
Parents James and Robyn Cerny also helped create the petition. Three of their children have graduated from Sycamore High School, and their youngest son is a freshman.
“Schools in other states are open, and the reasons and excuses they give are hurting our kids academically and socially,” James Cerny said.
In the petition, one of the reasons listed why it was created was because, “Children are being negatively impacted academically, emotionally and mentally by the isolation and lack of education in the hybrid model.”
The petition also mentions signers’ support for teachers:
“This petition does not in any way state or suggest that Sycamore teachers are not doing their best and do not care about our children. In fact, we have heard that many teachers prefer to go back full-time to support their students, and they recognize that teachers are ‘essential.’”
Cerny stressed he supports the teachers in their roles and that “we all need to work together to re-open our schools.”
“There is still no clear decision, and the superintendent said he ‘hopes’ to open, but there isn’t any plan in place,” Cerny said. “Our goal with the petition is to get the info out there, let people know what the issues are and let them decide.”
Marshall agreed that the “school board, teachers, parents, students and the community need to work together to formulate a plan.”
“We have to find a way through this,” she said. “We need constructive ideas and brainstorming. If signing a petition doesn’t work, we have to start thinking of other courses of action, maybe taking legal measures and potentially starting a protest. We need our kids back in school.”