Updated: Nov 16, 2020
One month ago, OpenNewTrier was created to advocate for an in-class learning option at New Trier High School, mostly due to concerns that pressure would mount to keep online learning as the only option for our students. It didn’t take long for our concerns to come true. Just one week after the district finally kicked off its 25-percent hybrid reopening plan, the administration shut down the schools for one week. And then for another. If your child’s last name didn’t start with the right letter, he or she didn’t get to step into the classroom once. The same week that New Trier shutdown over COVID-19 concerns, other nearby schools and districts continued moving forward.
On Oct. 12, the same day that New Trier began its pause, Wilmette District 39 communicated: “We continue to have favorable trends on COVID-19 transmission rates and data within the region.”
Two days later, Loyola Academy announced an acceleration of their reopening plans: “Beginning Monday, October 19, fifty-percent of our student body will learn on campus each day.”
The Sears School in Kenilworth – just three blocks away from New Trier’s east campus – continued to operate its in-person learning track five days a week. Ninety percent of Sears students participate in that full-time, in-person track. Just 10 percent of students are online-only.
Most importantly, nearby Glenbrook School District 225 recently announced: “Beginning Tuesday, October 20th, the school district will transition to a full hybrid model where students will have the opportunity to attend in-person learning every day in either the morning or afternoon.” That means all students attend school every day, even if it's just for half a day, with an online-only option for those who need it. It’s not just the next round of shutdowns that’s bothering New Trier parents. Many feel that the district’s model just isn’t working for their kids. And an increasing number of parents are worried about their children’s mental health. It’s time for a better approach – one that gives all students the option of being in the classroom, while still providing an online-only option for families who need protection or who don’t yet feel comfortable with in-person learning. Other local districts are innovating to get their kids back in the classroom safely and responsibly. It’s time for New Trier to join them. The new saliva testing method recently approved by the board bolsters the case for more in-class time at New Trier. The testing should give families and teachers more confidence and also allow for smarter metrics. As the board said in its recent communication, “One goal of the testing is to reduce community transmission, which could allow for more uninterrupted in-person instruction at New Trier.” But it’s not just kids who need to be back in class. For in-person learning to work, teachers must be in the classroom. Some students say they don’t want to return to school because the Zoom learning experience in near-empty classrooms with no teachers present is no better than the virtual experience at home. If there aren’t enough teachers currently available for in-person learning, the district administration and the board need to make the necessary decisions to ensure the district’s needs are met. It’s why we spend nearly $27,000 per student at New Trier. We want your voice to be heard. OpenNewTrier is considering holding a news conference/rally at the school, supported by parents and other New Trier residents, to advocate for more in-person learning. We need your support. Please sign up to get engaged. As we said when we first launched OpenNewTrier, the High School is the pride of our community. For many families, it’s the principal reason they live here: to access the best in-person education, extracurricular activities and sports that Illinois has to offer. We want our kids back in school, while protecting all those in need. Please join us.