Taft HS LSC deadlocked on resolution calling for delay to in-person classes
by BRIAN NADIG
A non-binding resolution calling for the delay of in-person learning at Chicago schools failed to pass at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.
The vote was evenly split, with four in favor, four against and four abstentions. “The vote definitively reflects where we all are (on the issue),” LSC chairwoman Kathy Fern said.
Fifty-eight LSCs have approved similar resolutions, according to LSC teacher representative Bridget Doherty Trebing. The resolution called for a delay so that “councils, parent and community organizations and teachers, staff and school administrators” can work to formulate a return plan that is “safe, equitable and installs trust for all parties.”
The intent of the resolution is to ensure that any return is based on collaborative input, Trebing said. “We are a team together … with teachers working with administrators.”
“It’s not saying we don’t ever want to come back,” said LSC teacher representative Scott Plencner. “We just want a good plan.”
Plencner said that the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks pose a threat and that as a parent and teacher he urges caution and thorough dialogue on the matter. He added that a Taft student recently lost his father and grandfather to coronavirus.
Several LSC members said that that it was not appropriate to vote on the resolution given that there is no announced plans for the return of in-school instruction for the general high school population and that councils have no official authority on the matter. Elementary schools are scheduled to reopen to all students on Feb. 1, and on Jan. 11 students with several disabilities were allowed to return to classes.
Ten students with disabilities were eligible to return to in-person classes at Taft, but only one has returned so far. Taft’s Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center is not scheduled to reopen for in-person learning until the high school opens for all students.
Some LSC members said that their child is struggling with remote learning and hope Taft can find a way to safely reopen.
LSC parent member Chris Raguso said that she worries the teachers union will continue to have objections no matter how much additional dialogue there is on the issue. “There’ll be something else,” she said. “I feel we are caught in the middle. … Why can’t we figure it out?”
LSC community member Julieta Pasko said that intensifying efforts to get teachers vaccinated would go a long way in facilitating a safer return to in-person learning.
LSC community member Anita Bernacchi said that response surveys indicted that at some area elementary schools 70 percent or more of the parents want their children to return to in-person learning and that some area private schools have been open for months.
“I’m trying to look at all the stakeholders,” Bernacchi said. “I understand it’s terrifying, (and) there’s not going to be a vaccine (for all teachers and students) for a long time.”
After the vote, student Layan Nazzal expressed concern about in-person learning starting up too soon. She said that it could be “the summer or next year” before students are vaccinated and that many of Taft’s students are from low-income families and lack access to proper health insurance.
If high schools do reopen for general education students this spring, there are reports that it may first do so for freshmen only.
Meanwhile, about 160 school nurses have signed a letter expressing concern that they have not been included in the formulation of reopening plans.