IFT calls for statewide return to remote learning

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois Federation of Teachers called for a statewide return to remote learning as COVID-19 cases surge across the country.

IFT leaders released a statement Monday morning calling on Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education to enact uniform measures rather than advisories.

”Our members from preschool to higher education want to be back with their students, but the stakes are too high to open school buildings for in-person instruction while the death toll & infection rates surge,” the statement said in part.”

IFT president Dan Montgomery said if the state takes responsibility for sending schools back into remote learning, it would take some of the burden off of superintendents and school boards.

“They’re afraid maybe to make the call, especially if they have some vocal parents who say no, we want to be in person,” Montgomery explained. “So that’s why we think we need really clear metrics from the state about when you should go fully remote.”

When asked about IFT’s demands at Monday afternoon’s COVID-19 briefing, Governor Pritzker said the state was not planning to order all schools to go remote at this time.

“We’ve made sure to set parameters that are safe for schools,” Pritzker said. “We need schools to follow those parameters. Most are.”

According to a dashboard on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website, a little less than two-thirds of the state’s primary and secondary school students are in remote learning already.

Some, like Champaign’s Unit 4, briefly brought its youngest students back into the classrooms, only to reverse course last Thursday amid a rise in coronavirus cases in the county. Monday was the first day fully remote again.

CFT’s vice-president, Mike Sitch, pointed out in a statement last Thursday the strain teachers and families are under as they adjust once again.

“Our teachers have creative ideas on how to make this new situation work for families as we return to 100% virtual,” he wrote. “I trust they will be given the time and professional courtesy to get those ideas implemented for our students and community.”

For Montgomery, this is an example of the need for certainty.

“It’s very helpful as a teacher to have certainty, right?” Montgomery noted. “If you’re preparing for an online lesson versus an in-person lesson, it’s very different. We’ve heard from our teachers who are working in hybrid settings where they’re teaching in-person and online. They say it’s like teaching three classes. Each class is like three separate preparations.”

WCIA asked Montgomery if strikes could be on the table if IFT’s calls aren’t answered.

“We’ve said all along, we’ll do everything and our locals do everything they can to protect their communities, their students and their members. Thankfully, we haven’t had to take that step,” he said, although he acknowledged a few court cases over unsafe settings.

For now, IFT’s next step is to establish a crowd-sourced COVID-19 tracker for members.

“Our members can put in where they know there are outbreaks in schools and communities,” Montgomery said. “The public could be able to, too, actually, and then you could look at it online. You can see there’s an interactive map, you can see if it’s in your school district or in your school building even.”

He anticipated that tracker would be ready to launch in December.

To read IFT’s full statement, click here.

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