SOME SUB­UR­BAN DIS­TRICTS NIX FALL PLANS TO BRING KIDS BACK TO CLASS­ROOMS

May go from hy­brid mod­els to fully re­mote to start fall classes

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLARE PROC­TOR, STAFF REPORTER cproc­tor@suntimes.com | @ce­proc­tor23

School dis­tricts in some of Chicago’s largest sub­urbs had planned to kick off the fall with stu­dents back in class­rooms at least part time.

But with the start of school less than a month away and pres­sure mount­ing from anxious par­ents and teach­ers dur­ing a rag­ing pan­demic, some of those very dis­tricts have back­tracked and will start the year fully re­mote.

Oth­ers plan to stick with a hy­brid model to get stu­dents in school at least oc­ca­sion­ally, and most dis­tricts, whether they’re plan­ning to bring kids back on a lim­ited ba­sis or not at all, are pledg­ing to im­prove the on­line learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from the end of last school year.

On­line learn­ing will in­clude more live teach­ing sessions in El­gin Area School Dis­trict U-46 schools, the sec­ond-largest dis­trict in the state after Chicago Public Schools. That in­cludes teach­ers and stu­dents us­ing a sin­gle dig­i­tal plat­form and hav­ing teach­ers eval­u­ate all stu­dent work to de­ter­mine per­for­mance. The dis­trict’s de­ci­sion to go fully re­mote came after it had ini­tially been lean­ing to­ward a hy­brid model.

Diana Martinez, 43, of Stream­wood, will have chil­dren in kinder­garten and high school at Dis­trict U-46 schools this fall. Martinez, a sin­gle mother who lost two jobs be­cause of the pan­demic, said she had waited to find a new job un­til she knew her kids’ sched­ules. She even started train­ing her younger son to get used to wear­ing a mask, in case his kinder­garten class had an in-per­son com­po­nent.

On­line learn­ing in the spring was a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for Martinez’s rising sopho­more, she said, who was bul­lied his fresh­man year. But if school were to have been in­per­son this fall, Martinez said she “wouldn’t have hes­i­tated” or been ner­vous about send­ing her kids.

She said she had planned to sup­port the dis­trict’s de­ci­sion, what­ever it was.

“I didn’t want to cre­ate that for my­self be­cause then my kids would feel that ten­sion,” Martinez said. “If I would have been ner­vous or com­plain­ing, I think [my kids] would have hes­i­tated.”

De­ci­sion re­versed after four days

Evanston Town­ship High School Dis­trict 202 had planned to start some in-school in­struc­tion after La­bor Day, a plan dis­cussed at a July 13 board meet­ing. Less than a week later, the school an­nounced on July 17 it would stick with re­mote learn­ing “un­til further no­tice.” Ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools in Evanston/ Skokie School Dis­trict 65 will hold re­mote classes through Septem­ber, then tran­si­tion to in-per­son classes four days a week if the dis­trict deems the health sit­u­a­tion safe.

In the south sub­urbs, South Hol­land School Dis­trict 150 will start fully on­line, eval­u­at­ing after six weeks to see if it’s safe to move into a hy­brid model. Stu­dents will re­ceive five hours of in­struc­tion a day, ac­cord­ing to its re­mote learn­ing plan.

J. Ster­ling Mor­ton High School Dis­trict 201, which serves 8,400 high school stu­dents in west sub­ur­ban Cicero and Ber­wyn, will keep kids at home to start the year Aug. 19, but will open li­braries for stu­dents who need a place to study. Dis­trict lead­ers said they’ll mon­i­tor health guid­ance ev­ery two weeks and could move to a par­tial re­open­ing as soon as Sept. 18.

Rachel Es­pos­ito, pres­i­dent of the teach­ers union at Cicero School Dis­trict 99, the sub­urb’s ele­men­tary and ju­nior high dis­trict, said at a re­cent Illi­nois Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers vir­tual news con­fer­ence that “there’s noth­ing that we could do that would 100 per­cent pre­vent this dis­ease from spread­ing.” The IFT, which rep­re­sents 100,000 ed­u­ca­tors in the state in­clud­ing those in the Chicago Teach­ers Union, has pushed for all dis­tricts to start the school year re­motely. Ad­min­is­tra­tors at Es­pos­ito’s dis­trict are ex­pected to an­nounce their fall plan in the com­ing days.

“We can do all of the pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures we want, but the re­al­ity is that there’s still go­ing to be pos­i­tive cases,” Es­pos­ito said. “And we see it all the time, es­pe­cially in a town like Cicero. This is a work­ing-class com­mu­nity, we have a lot of es­sen­tial work­ers that work in this com­mu­nity.”

West sub­ur­ban Oak Park Ele­men­tary School Dis­trict 97 had also planned on a hy­brid teach­ing model, but at a July 22 spe­cial board meet­ing, the dis­trict an­nounced the first trimester of classes will be re­mote.

“We have heard se­ri­ous con­cerns from our staff and fam­i­lies about re­turn­ing to in-per

son learn­ing,” said dis­trict Supt. Carol Kelly in an an­nounce­ment.

Dis­trict 97’s on­line cur­ricu­lum — “Re­mote Learn­ing 2.0” — will be more rig­or­ous and of­fer more live in­struc­tion than in the spring, with struc­tured class times and ex­pec­ta­tions for home­work.

Far­ther west, Naperville Com­mu­nity Unit School Dis­trict 203 plans to stick with a hy­brid teach­ing model, with stu­dents split into groups by last name to try to keep sib­lings in the dis­trict on the same sched­ule. Par­ents had the chance to opt into an On­line Academy, com­mit­ting their stu­dents to at least a se­mes­ter or trimester of on­line learn­ing.

Face masks re­quired

Schools plan­ning to of­fer any in-per­son ex­pe­ri­ence this fall must re­quire face masks, keep groups at 50 peo­ple or less and so­cial dis­tance as much as pos­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to guide­lines is­sued by the Illi­nois State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion June 23.

Elmhurst Com­mu­nity Unit School Dis­trict 205 plans on re­open­ing all ele­men­tary schools for in-per­son classes and im­ple­ment­ing a hy­brid model for mid­dle and high school stu­dents. But Max Schoenberg, a math teacher at York Com­mu­nity High School and pres­i­dent of the Elmhurst Teach­ers’ Coun­cil, said many of the dis­trict’s teach­ers have con­cerns that the re­open­ing plan doesn’t ad­dress.

For ex­am­ple, Schoenberg said, the model des­ig­nates that all stu­dents on cam­pus are re­quired to eat lunch in the build­ing, but since stu­dents will have to re­move masks to eat, there’s no clear guid­ance on how stu­dents will be pro­tected. And while Dis­trict 205 par­ents have the free­dom to opt into full-time re­mote classes, teach­ers don’t have that choice. More than half of teach­ers in the dis­trict ei­ther have an un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tion or live with some­one who does that makes them higher risk for the virus, Schoenberg said.

“We’re caught in this dilemma. We would all rather be in per­son,” Schoenberg said. “But we want that ex­pe­ri­ence when it’s safe.”

School board Pres­i­dent Kara Caforio said in a let­ter to the teach­ers’ coun­cil that the board is com­mit­ted to safety and mon­i­tor­ing the chang­ing health sit­u­a­tion and is pre­pared to ad­just ac­cord­ingly.

So­cial dis­tanc­ing might be im­pos­si­ble in places like Niles North High School, which serves more than 2,000 stu­dents in north sub­ur­ban Skokie, said Pankaj Sharma, a so­cial stud­ies teacher at the school and the vice pres­i­dent of the teach­ers union.

Niles Town­ship High School Dis­trict 219 is plan­ning to hold classes re­motely for the first three weeks of school start­ing Aug. 17, then will phase stu­dents into a hy­brid model after La­bor Day.

“Our com­mu­nity also is a multi-generation­al com­mu­nity, so we have a lot of stu­dents who live with their grand­par­ents, and their par­ents are es­sen­tial work­ers, too,” Sharma said at a re­cent IFT press con­fer­ence.

“We want to . . . make sure that we’re do­ing ev­ery­thing that we can to keep our com­mu­ni­ties safe,” Sharma said.

Hope for full in-per­son in­struc­tion

Other dis­tricts are still holding out hope for a re­turn to full in-per­son classes at some point this fall. Batavia Public School Dis­trict 101, west of Chicago, is plan­ning on start­ing the year with hy­brid in­struc­tion and tran­si­tion­ing to all in-per­son later, if lo­cal con­di­tions al­low, the dis­trict said on July 21.

In a mes­sage to fam­i­lies, stu­dents and staff July 8, the dis­trict said it was “pleased to re­port” that the state “strongly en­cour­ages in-per­son in­struc­tion for stu­dents to the great­est ex­tent pos­si­ble while keep­ing health and safety as the num­ber one pri­or­ity.” About 20% of the dis­trict’s stu­dents have opted for re­mote learn­ing.

But the dis­trict is fac­ing back­lash as teach­ers claim they weren’t con­sulted about the fall plans. Scott Bayer, a his­tory teacher at Batavia High School, posted on Face­book that he and other teach­ers were “shocked” by the dis­trict’s an­nounce­ment, which he said was “co­er­cive.”

“Teach­ers are ready as we’re go­ing to be for the un­cer­tain­ties of this year,” Bayer said. “But any plan put for­ward that your kids’ teach­ers don’t have a hand in cre­at­ing can­not be im­ple­mented safely and ef­fec­tively.”

“WE’RE CAUGHT IN THIS DILEMMA. WE WOULD ALL RATHER BE IN PER­SON. BUT WE WANT THAT EX­PE­RI­ENCE WHEN IT’S SAFE.” MAX SCHOENBERG, math teacher at York Com­mu­nity High School and pres­i­dent of the Elmhurst Teach­ers’ Coun­cil

A con­victed felon with a his­tory of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence al­legedly stabbed his girl­friend to death with a kitchen knife after they fought over al­co­hol and a cig­a­rette on the South Side over the week­end.

Sur­veil­lance cam­eras cap­tured Julius Wil­liams killing 36-year-old En­joli Hay­more after the on-and­off cou­ple met at Met­calfe Park’s play­ground to drink al­co­hol Sun­day, Cook County pros­e­cu­tors said Tues­day.

Be­fore the mur­der that took place be­tween the park and the Bronzevill­e Clas­si­cal Ele­men­tary School, Hay­more’s friend had seen the cou­ple “bick­er­ing” about shar­ing al­co­hol and a cig­a­rette, pros­e­cu­tors said. The friend left to grab a six-pack of beer and came back to find Wil­liams, 53, and Hay­more still ar­gu­ing.

Wil­liams even­tu­ally left after yelling at Hay­more, but the friend stayed with her for a bit un­til they de­cided to leave for Hay­more’s mother’s house a block away near 43rd and State streets, pros­e­cu­tors said.

As they walked down the first block of West Root Street, Hay­more and her friend no­ticed Wil­liams walk­ing to­ward them, pros­e­cu­tors said.

The friend al­legedly asked Hay­more if he should “knock out” Wil­liams, but she said “no.” So the friend con­tin­ued walk­ing while Hay­more slowed down as if to speak to Wil­liams, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Sec­onds later, Hay­more could be heard grunt­ing as Wil­liams al­legedly stabbed her three times: once in her chest and twice in her ab­domen.

Hay­more’s friend tried to in­ter­vene, but Wil­liams al­ready had started walk­ing away, pros­e­cu­tors said. The friend took a swing at Wil­liams and tried to grab him, but Wil­liams, still holding the knife, al­legedly asked if he “wanted some of this.”

Hay­more was un­able to speak when her fam­ily rushed to the scene. She was taken to the Univer­sity of Chicago Med­i­cal Cen­ter where she died an hour later at 5:20 p.m. Sun­day.

Wil­liams was ar­rested within 15 min­utes of the deadly stab­bing a half mile away.

Wil­liams’ ex­ten­sive crim­i­nal record in­cludes con­vic­tions for sex­ual as­sault, at­tempted mur­der, armed rob­bery, vi­o­lat­ing an or­der of pro­tec­tion and fail­ure to regis­ter as a sex of­fender, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Judge Wes­ley Wil­lis or­dered Wil­liams held without bail for Hay­more’s mur­der.

John Took’s new book “Dante” is very heavy lift­ing. From the first sen­tence — “Ex­em­plary in re­spect of just about ev­ery­thing com­ing next on the banks of the Arno over the next few decades was the case of Buon­del­monte de’Buon­del­monti on the thresh­old of the thir­teenth cen­tury.” — it is a waist-deep slog through the mud­di­est of aca­demic creeks.

Press­ing for­ward, I grew to hate him. Just for tak­ing some­thing so valu­able and ren­der­ing it into turgid aca­demic blather. Grew to hate Prince­ton Univer­sity Press for foist­ing this upon a trust­ing public. Hate the schol­ars who blurbed it. “A beau­ti­ful book that re­flects decades of think­ing and teach­ing,” be­gins lit­er­ary critic Piero Boi­tani.

Maybe he meant the cover. It is in­deed a beau­ti­ful cover.

And I grew to hate my­self for buy­ing the book, im­pul­sively, be­cause, heck, it has such a nice cover and it is about Dante. For in­sist­ing on grimly, joy­lessly grind­ing through it, page after page, try­ing to glean some shred of knowl­edge from this field of chaff. I blame my own cheap­ness. I bought the thing, paid, geez, $35 for it. I have to read it. It grew to feel like penance, a hair shirt. En­dur­ing a home­bound sum­mer in a brain­less era dur­ing the realm of an im­be­cile? Here’s some grist for the mill, per­fesser. Chew on this!

Then on Page 333 (iron­i­cally, since three is very big in Dante’s Com­me­dia), he makes it all worth­while. A re­demp­tive Hail Mary pass, fit­tingly. He’s cat­e­go­riz­ing the ways the hu­man ves­sel is de­formed in “In­ferno”: stuffed into fis­sures in rocks, sooth­say­ers’ heads twisted back­ward “in a grim par­ody of their pro­fes­sion,” bar­ra­tors sunk in molten pitch, “the most atro­cious kind of meta­mor­pho­sis.”

Then Took reaches back and un­leashes this per­fect spi­ral:

“Whether any one of these things, in Dante’s ar­range­ment of them, is in truth worse than any other is nei­ther here nor there, for at ev­ery stage it is a ques­tion of the love­less­ness of it all, of a shat­ter­ing of the ‘vinco d’amor’ or love-chain whereby one man is ideally bound to an­other in a spirit of mu­tual con­cern.”

Yes, “love-chain” sounds like the name of a 1970s dance hit. But his def­i­ni­tion, the ideal that we are con­nected, bound to one an­other “in a spirit of mu­tual con­cern” — isn’t that ex­actly what is miss­ing now? In ev­ery di­rec­tion you look? The pres­i­dent. The riot­ers. The cops. The mask­less mo­rons cough­ing on pyra­mids of or­anges at Pig­gly Wig­gly? “The love­less­ness of it all.” 2020 in a nut­shell.

Why are so many Amer­i­cans all-in for Trump, still, even if it means Grandma must die? Be­cause do­ing so lib­er­ates them, frees them from the weight of that chain, that vinco d’amor. They don’t have to care about im­mi­grants try­ing to start a bet­ter life in Amer­ica, the way their grand­par­ents did. We don’t have to care about Black cit­i­zens be­ing cav­a­lierly killed on cam­era. Black lives mat­ter? Our lives mat­ter, pal, and don’t you for­get it. Our lives. Us. The ones who count.

The love­less­ness of it all. The left re­turns the fa­vor. Colum­bus was a bad guy so we can pull his stat­ues down. That they were put up by a peo­ple them­selves op­pressed, try­ing to crawl into the same cir­cle of ac­cep­tance, and are in their eyes a tribute to that suc­cess? Tough beans. Go find an­other hero.

Not much em­pa­thy here ei­ther. There is one statue in Dante’s “In­ferno.” In Canto XIV. Vir­gil calls him the “Old Man,” with a head of gold, chest and arms of sil­ver, hips of brass, the left leg is iron. But the right foot is clay “baked hard as brick.” Dante is re­cy­cling — OK, steal­ing — lift­ing the whole statue im­age di­rectly from the Old Tes­ta­ment, Daniel, telling Ne­buchad­nez­zar that his king­dom will fall.

The twist Dante adds is tears drip­ping from cracks in the statue, form­ing the rivers in hell. Lead­ing back to now: a deadly pan­demic. Mil­lions un­em­ployed. Protest over racial in­jus­tice mor­ph­ing into mob vi­o­lence. And that note of ab­sur­dity that makes a truly ter­ri­fy­ing night­mare: We’re all fo­cused on clay-footed Christophe­r Colum­bus, like he’s back from hell to in­flict car­nage upon the liv­ing one more time. As al­ways, there is an apt quote from Dante, Canto IV: “His shadow, once de­parted, now re­turns.”

TYLER LARIV­IERE/SUN-TIMES

Jeremiah Wells, 5, walks with his mom, Diana Martinez, in front of Her­itage Ele­men­tary School in north­west sub­ur­ban Stream­wood. Jeremiah will be start­ing kinder­garten at Her­itage this fall.

PRO­VIDED

“Dante,” by John Took PRO­VIDED

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