NORMAL — McLean County Unit 5 parents spoke out Wednesday night, asking for the students to return to school.
“I’m here to beg you to believe in our kids and our teachers because they can do this,” said Heidi Voorheis, the parent of two Unit 5 children.
Several parents spoke of the frustrations they have experienced with their kids learning from home in the last three weeks, including technology issues that interrupt education, financial strain involved with additional child care, physical effects of prolonged screen time, mental and emotional health struggles and loss of motivation causing students to fall behind.
Crystal Larkin said she had to leave her job so she could be home with her children while they learn from home.
“We are endangering our children by doing this. They need to be back in school and the district needs to figure out the best way possible to make this happen as soon as possible,” she said. “No more excuses — we need action.”
Lindsey Dickinson, president of the Unit Five Education Association, said a “disturbing narrative” has been spread by the district administrators and members of the school board blaming teachers and staff for the schools remaining closed.
“On behalf of UFEA, I want to state first unequivocally, we want to be back in school in person with our students and colleagues,” she said, adding that the teachers union's only position has been that they want to be involved in the decision-making process and that those decisions need to “prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Kristen Weikle said the administration is working to determine the health metrics officials will use to decide if in-person learning will resume in the second quarter.
“We have been working on a plan to get our students back in person after first quarter … Our hope is that if our metrics remain stable and/or improve that we will be able to transition to hybrid model for second quarter,” she said.
Weikle said more details about the plan likely will be released at the board’s next meeting, on Sept. 29. She did say that under the plan, parents would still be able to opt for 100% remote learning.
Mollie Emery said she and other Unit 5 parents deserve transparency from the district and “Now is the time for details.”
9 historic photos from The Pantagraph archives
Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.
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