IFT, UPI, IEA Call For Remote Learning To Start School Year

By Benjamin Cox on July 22, 2020 at 3:23pm

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has called for remote learning for schools this Fall. Leaders of IFT held a Zoom teleconference on Monday announcing that they feel that remote learning is the best way to protect the life, health, and safety of teachers and students this year. University Professionals of Illinois and the Illinois Education Association are expected to make similar pleas in a teleconference tomorrow. UPI and IEA will also release a data-based best practices document for an eventual safe reopening of college campuses around the state.

IFT President Dan Montgomery says its the safest option for almost every local school district in the state: “Our best recommendation is that the best option right now is to return to remote instruction in the Fall. However, we do say it’s possible that there are districts that can meet all those [reopening] guidelines – social distancing, mask wearing, the cleaning, and things like that – and if they can do it, then they can try and should try to bring students back. However, we have hardly seen anywhere that’s able to meet all of those guidelines.”

Montgomery says that even in the smallest of districts that can go back to in-person learning will find themselves going back to remote learning due to eventual outbreaks of COVID-19.

Montgomery says that the IFT also has two other pieces of advise for state administrators to consider for instruction plans this Fall: “Bring back the youngest ones first. There is now pretty strong evidence that younger kids – 10 years old and younger – that don’t transmit or spread the virus as much as adults, and there is also strong evidence that kids who are between 10 and 18 spread [the virus] just like an adult. We think you should start with the youngest kids first and then those with the biggest learning challenges, our special education population, and things like that. If you do that, it should hopefully leave more room in the buildings and keep some of the older kids remote so you can bring the younger kids back. We are also saying that we need better, stronger, on-site child care for our families and communities. When there are those kids who have to go in remotely, those parents who are like the single mom who has a 6 and a 10 year old at home, she would have some options for child care while she goes to work.”

Montgomery says along with child care, the digital divide and Internet access should also be another area of focus for administrators prior to the Fall in case remote learning has to happen. Montgomery says IFT leadership is also worried about the estimated 24% of teachers who are in at-risk categories with COVID-19 infection, as well as local school districts’ abilities to find enough substitute teachers. Montgomery says he’s really asking local unions to work hard with their district administrators and school board to come up with comprehensive plans to maintain safety for everyone while also maintaining a conducive learning environment.

You can hear the full interview with Montgomery in the WLDS.com audio archive.

The UPI & IEA teleconference is scheduled for Thursday at 10AM. The unions are also asking Governor J.B. Pritzker to reconsider his recommendation for in-person instruction and urge his support for stricter safety guidelines prior to reopening campuses.