Yes, some students wishing to attend district 214 schools in person are being told they are being placed on waitlists.
How and why? Let’s start at the beginning.
On September 24, Superintendent Schuler sent out an e-mail to families notifying them of a planned return-to-school on October 15th. In the intervening weeks, parents received multiple e-mails instructing them of the need to have a signed In-Person Agreement, which was accessible through Infinite Campus, with reminders on its status also visible upon login. In cases, where only one of the two parents had created an Infinite Campus account, there were additional logistical details and the “other” parent was obliged to call the school for an override on the signature requirement. All told, parents had three weeks to complete this task.
On November 23, Superintendent Schuler likewise announced plans to increase the number of in-person instruction days available to students after the return-to-school on January 19th. However, in this case, the survey was not released until nearly three weeks later, on December 11th, with a due date of December 18th — that is, because of that delay, instead of three weeks for parents to reply, only one week was given. What’s more, the e-mail which contained the survey link was sent only to those parents who had Infinite Campus accounts, and there was no additional communication — no notification on Infinite Campus or through the IC app — until, on December 21st, an e-mail was sent announcing that those students whose parents had completed the survey, would be permitted to attend 5 days per week.
But what of those families which had not completed the survey?
After making inquires, I learned that some parents who inquired of their schools, were simply placed on in-person attendance lists, but others, at Meadows, Hersey, and Buffalo Grove, were told that their children would be on a waitlist, and would only be able to attend school if there was room for them. In some cases, they didn’t notice the e-mailed survey. In others, they assumed that the October return-to-school agreement was what was required and were surprised to learn otherwise. In another case, the assistant principal confirmed that the e-mail with the survey link had not been delivered due to server issues, but rather than making accommodations, they, too, were placed on a waitlist. (The situation is different at the other schools, as there seems to be either more capacity and/or more willingness to work with families at Wheeling and Elk Grove. At Prospect, it is not clear whether students whose parents missed the survey are even being allowed to add their names at all.)
What’s more, I corresponded with Superintendent Schuler regarding the issue, who reiterated that additional students would be able to attend only if “there was capacity in those classes.” I requested clarification and urged him to accommodate all students, not merely those whose parents had completed a survey with a week’s deadline, with no response. I also urged him to assure parents, in follow-up correspondence, that it was still possible for their children to elect to attend in-person. Again, I received no reply.
Instead, in the December 21st, e-mail, Schuler states “If a student has an interest in attending one particular class but not all classes in their schedule, he or she would have the opportunity to reach out to the Associate Principal for Operations who can work with them to determine if there is an extra seat available in that class.” In the further update yesterday, on Friday the 8th, there no mention, even indirectly, of an opportunity to sign up to attend, with the exception of a stated intention to reach out to “students who struggled academically.” I have been told that, at Wheeling, the principal has e-mailed families reporting on the low number of sign-ups and encouraging more students to attend, but I have not heard of similar communications elsewhere.
Lastly, in addition to my correspondence with Schuler, I e-mailed each board member, calling on them, consistent with their oath — “I shall accept the responsibility for my role in the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district” — to take action to remedy the issue of waitlists. None of the members responded to me, and, judging by Schuler’s unwillingness to take any further action to invite families to attend in-person, no of them acted on my e-mail in other ways, either.
This should be appalling to everyone who learns about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few kids — though we don’t know how many are affected. It doesn’t matter if we can assign blame to parents missing as survey — a child’s education shouldn’t be contingent on whether their parents are on top of paperwork. No student should be on a waitlist to receive in-person education, nor should an appropriate education be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
And, finally, each and every school board member has the obligation to provide oversight when students are treated this way.