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Parents Push For More In-Person Learning Amid COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Spencer Tritt

More and more Illinois school districts are offering in-person options as COVID-19 positivity rates continue to drop. 70% of students are now in a hybrid learning format. But many parents are turning to their school districts to ask for more in-person time.

Kerry Jannuzio’s son is a first-grader in Sycamore. Like 15% of Illinois students, he has an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. He needs speech therapy, which is especially challenging when he has to do it remotely.

“If you were here watching your child trying to do speech therapy on a computer that glitches and you're trying to teach them ‘K’ and ‘G’ sounds, I think you might understand where we're lacking for these kids. It's not working for everyone,” she said.

Teachers have stayed in touch; the district has given them worksheets and she’s bought books and flash cards for her son -- but it’s still tough to keep up. Jannuzio works in health care, so she can’t always be there to help when he learns from home. But now that he’s met his teachers in person, her son is more comfortable asking questions.

“I have seen my first-grader a lot more comfortable asking on the computer, now interrupting someone else to ask a question, because before he wouldn't, he would just sit there. And he would if he couldn't follow something he would just wait until later and he'd asked me,” said Jannuzio.

Jannuzio was one of a dozen Sycamore parents who spoke at their last school board meeting about expanding in-person offerings. She wants her kids to go back five days a week but thinks it’s unlikely. Right now, 43% of Illinois school districts offer an all in-person option.

In November, the school district returned to partially in-person but had to move back to remote learning after an outbreak saw over 300 people under quarantine. With county rates decreasing, Jannuzio thinks it’s time to expand in-person again.

A recent survey of the district found that 65% of parents would be comfortable sending their kids in-person for full days Monday through Friday, even if it meant less than six feet of social distancing. Sycamore staff are set to start getting vaccinated by the end of this week. 

Parents were also concerned about what the school will do over the summer and next year for students who have had trouble learning during the pandemic.

Other districts in DeKalb County have seen similar parent groups push for more in-person learning. Over a dozen Sandwich School District parents recently pleaded with their school board on expanding in-building options.