More than 1,000 parents in suburban Joliet have signed a petition urging school administrators to bring children back into classrooms despite an announcement earlier this year that all learning would remain remote until the end of the school year.
The push comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education released updated joint guidance for schools to safely reopen.
Jennifer Wysocki started an online petition calling on schools in Joliet District 86 to reopen for in-person learning as soon as possible.
“I think the biggest thing is the parents of Joliet want a choice,” said Wysocki. “They want to be able to say, yeah, I want my kids in school or no I don’t want my kids in school.”
Wysocki, a teacher in another district, has two children in elementary school and said they have been struggling with remote learning this past year.
“My daughter, she used to say everyday how much she loves school and at the end of the year she would start crying because summer was starting,” she said. “But now she literally hates school—lots of everyday saying 'I hate school mommy, I hate school.'”
More than 1,100 parents have signed the petition as of Tuesday evening. Parents believe with a drop in COVID cases, surrounding districts reopening, and teachers being vaccinated—there’s no reason why students can’t safely return to the classroom.
“Even though we are yes, at the end of the year, and there’s only 60 something days left, but 60 something days in a life of a child is huge,” she said.
Other parents, like Jessica Curtis signed the petition and supports the idea of going back.
“I don’t understand why our district is one of the only districts in the area that are not pushing for in-person learning even though it is well known that the kids are struggling, that families are struggling, the parents are struggling,” said Curtis. “Most importantly the children are struggling with e-learning. They’re not getting their needs met, they’re not learning at the same rate that they would have been learning if they were in school.”
Curtis told NBC 5 she pulled her two boys ages 8 and 5 out of the district. She’s now homeschooling them.
“I feel good about my decision to pull them out because I know that my kids aren’t falling behind,” said Curtis.
A district spokesperson told NBC 5 since January it has brought back a small group of students for in-person learning, including students with special needs. This month, students experiencing connectivity or engagement issues can also return. It’s unclear how many students have opted to go back, but for Melody Maya, the timing isn’t right for her daughter.
“We have talked about the pros and cons of her going back to school,” said Maya. “But ultimately she’s only 5 years old so she can only take care of herself so much.”
Maya said she does not support returning to in-person for now.
“I’m not 100% against it, but I’m not all for it just because my daugther’s safety is my number one concern at the end of the day,” said Maya.
The school board is having a virtual meeting Wednesday at 7 pm. Parents hope the superintendent will reconsider plans to reopen schools prior to the end of the year.