Geneva D-304 parents praise, criticize district

‘Unlock the chains of our schools’

GENEVA – The Geneva District 304 school board heard from parents both praising the district for how it was handling a return to in-person learning and criticizing that volunteers were not allowed back into the school buildings.

Speaking at the Sept. 13 school board meeting, parent Stephanie Bellino said she knows “we’re still not at normal, but there’s a lot I’m really really grateful for that we have in the district right now.”

“My kids are in school and have been in school. But also we got a lot of things back this year that I’m happy that we were able to figure out,” Bellino said.

These include outdoor education, sports, clubs, band, choir, performances, she said.

“All of this is because we’re following those mitigations and we’re wearing masks,” Bellino said. “And without that, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of that. We would have been quarantined multiple times already.”

Parent Katherine Gelder said she echoed Bellino’s comments.

“I want to thank everyone in the district,” Gelder said. “Everybody who is here tonight, all the teachers, the janitorial staff, the groundskeepers – it requires so many people to make all this work. It’s a really excellent start of the school year.”

After a difficult past school year, Gelder said she was grateful for everyone at her school and the district for the current school year.

Parent Jean Smith asked the district to “unlock the chains of our schools and allow parents and caretakers back in the buildings.”

“Please explain the logic,” Smith said. “You can’t, because it’s illogical. … We’ve canceled back-to-school night, grandparents’ day, field trips. Even volunteers who make copies for teachers have been told they can’t enter.”

Smith said if hundreds of masked children and teachers can be in the schools, masked parents and caretakers should be allowed in as well.

“Every email we receive, every speech we hear, everyone talks about longing for things to be ‘back to normal.’ Yet we sit. We sit and change nothing,” Smith said. “We are going on our children’s third year of school affected by all of this. We must make a change.”

Smith said school is more than about learning – it is also about social interactions, holiday parties and events.

Board President Taylor Egan challenged Smith’s assertion.

“I want to ask, how have we changed nothing? Because from last year to this year, we have our kids in school. We do have activities. … I myself attended the corn boil. We have athletic events throughout the district,” Egan said.

“Is it back to normal 100%? No. Is it possible to get back to normal 100% at this point? Probably not. But we are taking a measured approach so we can get back to that 100% normal point,” Egan said.

“I want to say to our students, our teachers and our families, everyone’s doing a pretty outstanding job, because we some really great things going on in our district that resemble quite a bit of normalcy, in my opinion,” Egan said. “Let’s celebrate what we do have instead of … always going back to what we don’t. We have a lot to be grateful for, compared to last year. We’re in a lot better place.”

Board member Dan Choi asked if there was a way the district could consider letting parents back into school buildings.