Arlington Heights School District 25 Board of Education Meeting | December 4, 2020.
In stressful pandemic times with stressed out board members, teachers, and parents concerned over undirected and bewildered students; the Arlington Heights School District 25 board voted Friday night, December 4, 2020 to continue with a hybrid learning model rather than go all-remote with an “Adaptive Pause” until January 19, 2021. In the current hybrid program, students attend on-site with full-day, in-person classes twice a week, but any families can choose to keep students at home with all-remote learning. The elementary school district’s Arlington Heights School District 25 board voted “NO” by a 4-3 vote Friday night — deciding against moving All-Remote to an Adaptive Pause for all schools in District 25 except Thomas Middle School.
Thomas Middle School — one of two middle schools in District 25 — is the exception because it remains closed through December 14, 2020 after an outbreak of COVID-19. Superintendent Lori Bein informed parents in an email Wednesday, December 2, 2020 that 11 positive cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 were “recently reported” at Thomas Middle School. The middle school is located at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Thomas Street in Arlington Heights. In the email, Superintendent Lori Bein wrote, “The Cook County Department of Public Health stated that it would be ideal for me to move the school into a full remote learning model at this time.” District 25 staff members were asked to work remotely, and the board and administrators “will further assess their return to the building as it is safe to do so.”
The divided 4-3 vote regarding the entire school district reflected a divided community. In a 2-hour plus meeting, board members discussed the difficulty of finding the right decision.
Erin Johannesen argued for board members to look for the well-being of the children, the well-being of the teachers; and stated that the board members need to take responsibility for (the well-being of) the greater community.
Anisha Patel was concerned about the continuity of care of students interrupted by the possible increased need for substitute teachers during the pandemic.
Board member Chad Conley was concerned with students with special needs and students whose parents would be unable to supervise students at home during an Adaptive Pause. Conley was also concerned whether there is an effective plan to move from the Adaptive Pause back to in-person learning on January 19, 2021. Bein said “invited students” would potentially return to a hybrid mode with full 4-day on-site in-person classes classes, instead of the current twice-a-week hybrid. If the COVID-19 metrics were very good, there could possibly be full in-school classes, according to Bein. If metrics were worse around early January 2021, the board would meet again to make a decision.
Board member Erin Johannesen moved that the board approve an Adaptive Pause beginning Monday December 7, 2020. Anisha Ismail Patel seconded the motion.
Board President Brian Cerniglia made comments before the vote, mentioning that the board was accused of avoiding making a very difficult decision, and said avoiding a decision was not the case. In days following the board’s presentation and vote, some parents were critical of the next comment by Cerniglia: “If I responded to every accusation that’s been out there in the last couple of months, I probably would have hung myself … so [chuckle] .”
Prior to the vote, District 25 administrators said they received 220 public comments against what’s called an Adaptive Pause, which defines by suspended in whole or in part temporarily. District 25 officials said they received 254 public comments encouraging the board to vote in favor of an Adaptive Pause. The remote learning known as Adaptive Pause is defined by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The IDPH Adaptive Pause document is posted on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website. Adaptive Pause is also clarified by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
An Adaptive Pause is a strategy that allows for movement into any level of remote learning to prevent disease transmission during a pandemic. An Adaptive Pause may result in delayed reopening at the start of a specific school term or a pivot to remote learning once the school year is underway for school officials to have time to plan for next steps with parents, teachers and staff. An Adaptive Pause may also include a pivot to remote learning for a classroom, a grade level, a wing, a building or school- or district-wide remote learning.
Cerniglia said the district has received countless emails telling the board to look at the science. But, he said, “if I get another email asking me to look at the science, my head is going to explode.” For every email I received from an angry parent demanding that District 25 put our kids back in school, I received and equal number of emails from concerned parents who don’t want to risk the further spread of this deadly virus. “So which of those parents am I supposed to represent tonight?”
Cerniglia said the science isn’t consistent either, referring to CDC rubric that’s published tells us to take an adaptive pause. We have recommendations that tell use to take an adaptive pause, then we turn around and we’ve got a CDC press conference telling us that school is the safest place for our kids. Cerniglia said, “so there really is no right answer.”
Cerniglia urged board members to vote their conscience, saying, “It’s not just the loud, angry individuals that choose to unprofessionally share their opinions with us through email and other means, and it’s not the kind, quiet, polite ones, but as a whole, quite frankly the majority of our constituents haven’t even e-mailed us. They haven’t come to board meetings and said anything. They’ve been silently looking for us for leadership … looking for Lori and her team to run the quality district we’ve already run.” Cerniglia said that “if the numbers are pointing towards the pause, and if we have staffing constraints that are pointing toward a pause, and we have teacher burnout, and a very large majority of our teachers that are sharing and expressing concern, and literally half of our parents have told us through survey and email and petitions that they’re asking for a pause.”
Those in favor of the Adaptive Pause voting ‘YES’ were school board President Brian Cerniglia, Erin Johannesen, and Anisha Ismail Patel. Voting against the Adaptive Pause were board members Scott Filipek, Chad Conley, Gina Faso and Rich Olejniczak.
Faso and Olejniczak cited the district’s improved overall metrics and effective mitigation measures. Olejniczak called the measures “something that we all should be proud of.”
“I personally am in awe of what the teachers do every day, and we continually need to ask those challenging questions of how can we help them.”
— Rich Olejniczak
Filipek said a visit to schools Friday confirmed for him the mitigation measures were working and students were complying.
“We are trusting our kids, and they are doing a phenomenal job. What’s best for our kids is to keep them in those schools.”
— Scott Filipek
I respect the teachers; I think they’re doing an amazing job. I recognize that they have gone above and beyond, and they will continue to go above and beyond regardless of where we land tonight … If I go with the science, the metrics have improved with the exception of a minor setback that’s occurred within our schools that is being addressed … with excellent mitigation we have in place.
— Gina Faso
Pro-Adaptive Pause petition signatures outnumbered hybrid in-person learning petition signatures.
On Monday morning over 60 signs were placed along the front of the District 25 administration building on Cypress Street between Arlington Heights Road and Dunton Avenue.
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