ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Teachers from across Winnebago County took to the streets of Rockford Monday morning in a demonstration calling for school districts to adopt full-time remote learning this fall.
“We need to let Rockford and the surrounding areas know that many school personnel and students are afraid to return to school. We must consider the consequences if we are to return to in person instruction and an outbreak occurs. If teachers and students begin to get sick, it will prolong the COVID 19 outbreak and walk back the progress we have made. This will cause our community to suffer,” the teachers said in a statement.
The teachers formed a caravan of vehicles, some decorated with slogans such as “Educate by example: science says ‘stay home,'” and followed a route from Rock Valley College to Alpine, E. State, Riverside and Mulford.
“We really have concerns about in-person learning it’s a very large district my school has over 1,000 students in it,” said Stephanie Valderrama of RESA Middle School.
“We don’t want to do remote learning but that’s the world we live in,” explained Kyle Heinsze of RESA Middle School. “I’m hearing about people filling out wills, I’m going to be filling out a will. I’m 31 years old but there’s plenty of stories of physically fit young people suffering and dying of COVID-19.”
Teachers we spoke with said they do ultimately hope to return to in-classroom learning, but believe the current risk of infection is high, and wish to be made a part of the districts’ decision-making process.
“I’m the oldest person in my building and I’m petrified to go back I’m so sad I cry and cry because I miss my students and they need to have us there and we need to be in close contact but I’m scared,” said Rene Sardina, a teacher at Barbour Elementary School.
Valderrama said her goal is a “zero student and teacher deaths.”
Rockford School Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett released the following statement:
“We appreciate our teachers’ concerns and the worries of our staff members and their families. We share a lot of those same concerns and worries for our own children, family members and friends. We’ve been working all summer with the Rockford Education Association leadership team and dozens of teachers and staff to create reopening plans that are safe and best for students. We have invited staff to share their questions and concerns as we build our back-to-school plans. We know our staff — like our families — want options. We plan to offer remote-only teaching jobs in the upcoming school year. Those jobs will be driven by student need. We will continue to collaborate with our staff on our back-to-school plans.
“Right now, offering in-person instruction is an issue of equity and social-emotional support. If we can’t offer in-person instruction, our most vulnerable students will suffer. We’re following guidance from the Winnebago County Health Department and Illinois State Board of Education to develop our reopening plans.”