SYCAMORE – Some Sycamore mothers spoke out during Tuesday’s school board meeting with concerns over quarantine learning, masks and other COVID-19 protocols.
Lisa Feuerbach spoke in front of the Sycamore Board of Education at Southeast Elementary School Tuesday about what she said was lack of instruction her middle school-aged son – who was healthy and did not end up testing positive for COVID-19 – received while he was in quarantine recently.
“I am frustrated as a parent,” Feuerbach said in an interview after the meeting. “There was nothing in place for remote instruction. I assumed there would be a Google Meet or a livestream, but there was nothing. Other than an initial phone call, I had to do all the outreach to try to get answers, and nobody knew what was going on. I think it’s inexcusable what happened. The school definitely should have been proactive, but they weren’t even being reactive.”
During board discussion, board member Eric Jones also spoke about what he said were issues with quarantine procedures after his son, a fifth grader at Sycamore Middle School, was quarantined for 10 days.
“That did seem to conflict with what I guess my perception was of what options were going to be provided especially for [vaccinated vs. unvaccinated],” Jones said. “Why is it different than what we thought we were going to do this summer and what we’re going to do now? What process does the school really have when deciding what quarantine options are for students?”
[ COVID-19 in DeKalb County schools: Cases, quarantine and testing ]
Parent Colette Montani said that “at some point, we have to understand that we are doing our students and our community a disservice by following every single recommendation that the [Illinois State Board of Education] is laying out for us.”
“We are told that if our kids are not vaccinated, they have to quarantine, and they are not eligible for e-learning,” Montani said. “I’m sorry, but this is the worst form of discrimination I have seen in this district. If one child is denied e-learning for that reason, [that is] one child too many. The message you sent the kids and parents is, ‘Sorry, your education is not as important as Sue because she is vaccinated.’”
According to COVID-19 quarantine guidance for DeKalb County schools, a student who is exposed to the virus has to quarantine unless they are both: vaccinated and experiencing no symptoms, as Superintendent Steve Wilder has said. The amount of quarantine time is determined by case, and the DeKalb County Health Department has the final say on what that quarantine period is for students, school officials have said.
[ What happens when hundreds of students quarantine in DeKalb County schools? ]
After each mom spoke, their speeches were met with applause from some in the crowd attending the meeting.
Board President Jim Dombek said that the board will “take into consideration” what the parents said.
Jones also asked the board what can be done to improve remote learning options for students who experience multiple quarantines and whether teachers can livestream their classes. He said district leaders didn’t expect virus outbreaks to “happen this soon.”
“It’s easier to stomach a student or two being out for 10 days, but we’ve got 15, 20 kids out multiple 10-day periods,” Jones said.
After the school board meeting, Superintendent Steve Wilder said that concerns about quarantining will be addressed during the next board meeting, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28 at Sycamore Middle School.
“The pandemic is not over and we’re still dealing with positive cases and quarantines,” he said. “The outbreak in the middle school did catch us a little off guard. State guidance from ISBE has changed since the beginning of the year, and rules have changed as well. I understand the frustration. We’re looking to make school the best experience structurally, educationally and socio-emotionally as we can.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to convey the proper COVID-19 protocol for students exposed to the virus, which says that students exposed to the virus have to quarantine unless they are both vaccinated and also not exhibiting symptoms. An earlier version of this story was not clear on that criteria. The Daily Chronicle regrets the error.