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Ellie Luciano adjusts her backpack while keeping a physical distance form her peers at Wiesbrook Elementary in Wheaton

A bellwether for school reopening efforts in the pandemic, elementary classrooms in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 welcomed back students two weeks ago for the first time in more than 170 days.

As of Tuesday, the district has reported at least four students and one employee have tested positive for the coronavirus. But the district hasn’t identified any close contacts with those cases across the 13 elementary schools. Administrators credit physical distancing measures for helping to thwart the spread of the virus.

After months of enormous challenges preparing for an in-person start, the district still faces the complicated task of keeping the doors open in elementary schools. It’s also one of the major suburban districts pushing for at least a mix of face-to-face and virtual learning for middle and high school students.

Elmhurst Unit District 205 is providing another template, gradually sending students back to schools. On Monday, elementary students moved to a hybrid schedule. Sixth and ninth grades will follow suit Sept. 21. Populations of students with special needs also are now receiving on-campus instruction.

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300’s school board will vote next Tuesday on the district’s learning plan for the second quarter.

District 300 originally had planned on starting the year in-person but switched to remote learning. Now the administration recommends moving elementary, middle and high schools to a hybrid schedule for the second quarter beginning Oct. 13.

Read more here.

Editorial notes: During last night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Brian Harris gave no date for reopening 220 schools even at a hybrid level much to the frustration of parents and students who spoke during the meeting.  

One could sense the frustration on the part of board members, but all Harris seemed to want to do was talk about metrics, doing more surveys and fumble with his PowerPoint slides. Meanwhile, only 80% of teachers and staff are willing to work on 220 property while the rest work elsewhere.

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Parents in Barrington Area Unit District 220 said at a rally Monday evening at Citizens Park in Barrington that remote learning is a struggle no matter how much they try to help. (John Starks | Staff Photographer)

Holding signs like “Schools not screens” and “Stop playing politics, start playing ball,” more than 200 parents and students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 took part in a rally Monday evening asking the district to allow in-person schooling and sports.

District officials have said that students will be doing remote learning until at least Oct. 16. The “Let Them Play” rally at Citizens Park in Barrington asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker to “get our athletes on the field and kids back in the classrooms.”

Among the organizers were parents Jerry and Heather Ewalt of Barrington, who have four children in elementary, middle and high school in the district and said families should be given a choice between e-learning and sending their kids to school.

“Why are they not in school? They should be there,” Jerry Ewalt said. “I am asking for a choice. I understand some people are not going to be comfortable with going into school, and that’s OK.”

A survey conducted by the district earlier this summer showed 70% of parents wanted their children in school, he pointed out. “So why are they not in school?” he said, getting applause and cheering from the crowd.

The survey also showed about 50% of the district’s staff had concerns about returning to work.

Read more here.

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One of the most widespread challenges facing modern elections is false information. In Illinois, officials say misinformation and disinformation schemes are getting more aggressive.

“As we get closer to Election Day, I think we’re going to have more and more misinformation schemes,” said Marisel Hernandez, chairwoman of the Chicago Board of Elections. “But we’re determined to be ahead of the curve and be out there letting voters know what is correct and what isn’t.”

The Tribune has fact-checked reported scams circulating in Illinois. Here are facts to know leading up to Nov. 3:

  • Voting more than once in an election is illegal
  • There is no such thing as voting online or through text
  • Nothing in the voter registration system indicates party affiliation
  • Voter information is not being sold or redistributed
  • Illinois upgraded its cyber defenses to prevent hacking and scams, and
  • Don’t interact with social media posts from untrusted sources

Read explanations of each of the points laid out above in the Chicago Tribune article here.

Editorial note: Granted, most of these facts are obvious to many of our readers. But we’re constantly amazed (and sometimes troubled) to learn what is actually news to some which is why we’re sharing this story.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants you to trust him. He and his fellow Democrats are pushing their “fair tax” proposal on the November ballot. And they promise that if you vote “yes,” they’ll only take from the rich, not the middle class.

They’re spinning the story on video ads that Pritzker is paying for, and in the media. And here’s the spin: If you vote for Pritzker’s “fair tax” amendment, and change the state constitution to abolish the current flat tax, there’s no way they’ll use their new “progressive” tax to reach down into the middle class and grab middle-class money.

No way. They promise. Trust them.

Who wouldn’t trust Pritzker? And just look at House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Democratic Party boss of Illinois, smiling impishly, even with all that federal heat on him and the FBI’s big federal bus rolling back and forth between Springfield and Chicago. Who wouldn’t trust Boss Madigan? Isn’t trust everything?

Some of you want to trust them. I get it. They’re powerful people, and Illinoisans have been trained to bow and scrape before their lords. Besides, I bet that some who believe they’ll only tax the rich also want to believe that someday, they might have tiny purple unicorns as pets.

But the problem is reality — and a series of excellent Chicago Tribune editorials on broken promises from the political class in Springfield.

Read more of John Kass’ column here.

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The Barrington CUSD 220 Board of Education meets tonight at 7:00 PM at 215 Eastern Ave. Some of the topics for discussion and/or vote on their agenda include:

  • Consideration to Approve Construction Manager Contract with Pepper Construction Company
  • Consideration to Approve Architect Contract with DLR Group
  • Consideration to Approve Superintendent Search Firm Contract
  • Tentative 2020-21 Budget Discussion

A copy of their agenda can be viewed here. Those wishing to watch the meeting via YouTube can find the link here.

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Public health guidelines combined with district survey results has led to Barrington School District 220 now moving to start the new academic year with remote-only learning, district officials said.

“I have this constant struggle between my head and my heart,” Superintendent Brian Harris during a special board meeting Tuesday. “We know having kids in our schools is the best place for them but there are significant reasons why we cannot right now.”

Initially, the district had three plans for starting the 2020-2021 school year which included having students in-person at school buildings, distance learning and a hybrid mix of both.

Harris released an entirely remote learning plan to parents July 29 and talked about it during the special meeting Tuesday – which was held in-person and broadcast on the district’s YouTube social media channel.

The superintendent offered an overview on the new plan and the reasoning behind it. Seventeen people, in total, shared their concerns with the board in person, remotely and by email. A town hall meeting was planned for Aug. 6 to answer any additional questions.

Read the Barrington Courier-Review/Tribune spin on Tuesday’s meeting here.

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In just a few days, we have witnessed some very troubling communications decisions made by the District 220 Board of Education and their Superintendent. Some call it censorship, but it’s up to readers to decide that after considering some facts.

Tuesday night, upwards of 1,500 people tuned in to a live stream YouTube broadcast of a special meeting of the District 220 Board that began at 6:30 PM and lasted nearly three hours. For the first half hour of the meeting, a few participants checked off under on-line comments whether they liked or disliked what was being discussed (as seen in the graphic below).

Sometime after 7:00 the ratings were deleted and viewers could no longer register their opinion.

From the start of the meeting, participants were feverishly texting comments on what Superintendent Brian Harris was saying, and more often than not, the texts were much more insightful and interesting than Harris’ canned presentation.

Many of the texts were critical of the District, and around 7:00 PM, the texts were also silenced. The trail of comments were deleted as seen below.

It is also worth noting that the standard YouTube feature of free-form comments was also turned off. To view what we’ve described thus far, click here to view the recording of Tuesday’s meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, District 220 sent out a mass email with a link to a two hour Vimeo recording of the Tuesday meeting (seen here). However, the emailed recording failed to include over forty-five minutes of public comment from community members who waited patiently for two hours for their turn to speak their minds.

There is no question in our minds that the 220 Board of Education, but much more so Superintendent Brian Harris, failed to manage the expectations of parents, students and teachers in the months leading up to the unexpected announcement that fall classes would be all-remote learning last week.

As a result, the parties involved are upset and deserve to have their voices heard. For them to be silenced in the ways we’ve documented is tantamount to censorship.

Note: Those wishing to view the email sent by Dr. Harris yesterday can click here.

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The following is from Brian Harris:

“The district leadership team is also holding a virtual town hall on Thursday, August 6 from 6:30pm-8:30pm to answer questions.

During the first half hour of the zoom meeting, I will share details in a presentation. During the remainder of the meeting community members will be able to ask questions and receive answers in real time from myself, principals and several other district administrators.”

Town hall link: https://barrington220.zoom.us/j/86115363666

If you would prefer to phone in to the meeting, dial 312-626-6799, and use Town Hall ID 861 1536 3666 when prompted.

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Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris went into great detail about why distance learning will be used to start the 2020-21 school year, but parents and students voiced their concerns at a meeting Tuesday night.

Like a growing number of suburban school systems, District 220 last week reversed course on its plan to let parents choose between in-person and online classes. Harris said the remote learning will go to at least Oct. 16.

A maximum 50 people were allowed to attend Tuesday night’s meeting in the Barrington Middle School-Station Campus cafeteria. Some parents held signs outside the school entrance showing their displeasure with the decision to start 2020-21 with the distance learning.

District 220 officials said two significant problems emerged as they planned to bring back students last month: the inability to maintain social distancing and meeting staffing needs.

Harris said that while a survey showed 70% of parents wanted their children in school, about 50% of the district’s staff had concerns about returning to work. He said a longtime contract clause states teachers cannot be forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Read more here.

Editorial notes: As many as 1,500 people tuned in to the meeting at times. “Like” verses “Dislike” ratings by audience members were even until 220 turned the feature off.

Finally, text chat comments posted by audience members were frequent and often very critical of 220 until they turned the feature off to silence their critics at around 7:00 as seen below:

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The District 220 Board of Education will holding a very special meeting this evening at 6:30 PM at the Barrington Middle School Station Campus. A copy of their agenda can be viewed here.

Due to public health guidelines, capacity will be limited to 50 people in the cafeteria at a time. Another 50 people will be able to watch the live stream of the meeting from the Station library. Any additional people will be asked to wait outside the building and will be called in if they signed up for public comment.

Masks are required if you choose to attend the meeting in person.

If you are not able to watch the meeting live, the video will remain on our YouTube channel to watch at any time. 

Related: “District 220 announces school year to start “primarily” via distance learning; some say board caved to teacher’s union

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