Oswego School District 308 students speak out against e-learning in Facebook video

Parents’ group seeking option for full in-person learning next semester

A member of an Oswego School District 308 parents group opposed to the district’s remote learning policy has created a video featuring more than a dozen students speaking out against e-learning.

In the seven-minute video, posted to Facebook on Sunday, Dec. 20, district elementary and middle school students share testimonies of depression, social isolation and a lack of education resulting from e-learning.

“I can’t focus - I don’t get motivated to actually do the work,” one male student said in the video. “It just doesn’t feel like school. It’s just stressful. It’s just a thing I have to do. I don’t learn anything.”

While I understand everyone has strong feelings on the school situation, some of our feelings have been GASLIGHTED and IGNORED. We are all weathering the same storm, but all in different types of boats. Just because you or your child are thriving, doesn’t mean everyone is. Some kids are SERIOUSLY STRUGGLING in Illinois School District 308. Mentally, physically, and academically. So before you dismiss any of these people, you should probably hear from them yourself. There is a two minute intro and then you hear from kids who wanted their voices heard. Please share this video.

Posted by Dominique Castillo on Sunday, December 20, 2020

The creator of the video, Dominique Castillo, is a member of a district parents group called Rally to Open SD308 for ALL Students.

The group boasts more than 600 members on Facebook and is pushing the district to offer full in-person classes next semester. Currently, the district plans to get students back to class in phases under a hybrid program where different groups of students attend class only two days a week.

“The group was formed for all students, parents, staff and residents of SD308 who want a choice to return to in-person instruction,” said Danielle Merten, a member of the parents group. “We believe this can happen for all levels of education in January. We believe this can be done safely, as other districts in Illinois and around the country have proven.”

Merten said she and another parent spoke with multiple school board members Monday night, Dec. 21, but did not offer specifics of the conversations.

“We are working with the BOE and administration of SD308 to get a better plan for the kids to have more in-person time with their teacher,” Merten said. “We are also asking for all students to start in January with no more delays.”

Theresa Komitas, the school district’s public information officer, did not return a request for comment.

In addition, the group is organizing a rally to support in-person education scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 3, at Mason Square shopping center at Douglas Road and Route 34 in Oswego.

For Castillo, the video’s creator, the district’s new hybrid schedule does not guarantee full-time, in-person classes.

“Nothing’s going to be accomplished,” Castillo said. “You’re not going to have those kids focused, and I don’t think it’s going to solve any problems that the kids are currently having with e-learning.”

Castillo said her daughter, a fourth grader at Old Post Elementary School in Oswego, struggled to keep up with assignments when e-learning began in the spring. She’s since pulled her daughter from the district, home-schooling her until “full in-person learning” returns.

“She loves school, she misses the library,” Castillo said. “She misses all of it and every day is a struggle to get her out of her room, to get her dressed, to get her to brush her hair – and I didn’t have these problems prior [to e-learning].”

Castillo stressed her group is neither anti-mask nor wanting to deny families the option to stay fully remote.

“I just want to add a choice,” Castillo said. “These kids are suffering. These kids aren’t learning. And what are the long-term effects of this? We don’t know yet, but I’m not willing to use my child as a guinea pig until we find out.”

Lucas Robinson

Lucas Robinson covers politics, courts, schools and the pandemic in Kendall County and Yorkville for Shaw Media. His work has previously appeared in the Chicago Reader, the Buenos Aires Times, Open Secrets and USAToday. He grew up in Muncie, Indiana.