The forum was co-sponsored by the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 General Home and School Association and featured eight candidates.
Kristin W. Fitzgerald, Donna Wandke, Charles Cush, Christi Helm, Thomas Andrew Binkowski, Adam Russo, Amanda McMillen, and Robert M. Reed all participated in the forum. William Bernard Eagan, III wasn’t able to attend.
After a minute each for introduction, the candidates were asked what factors and metrics the district should use to decide when to move into full-time in-person instruction.
Metrics for Reopening
Incumbent Charles Cush said it’s important to listen to health guidelines from the CDC and DuPage County Health Department, while also getting feedback from community members.
“I think it’s multi-factorial,” said Cush. “It’s not just the experts, although because they play a critical role, and we need to make sure that we’re listening there, but also understanding what’s happening specifically with our school community.”
Kristin W. Fitzgerald, who is also an incumbent, said the district has implemented the continuously changing guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the CDC, and DCHD. She said because of that, the district will be able to go back to full-time in-person learning after spring break.
“We’ll continue to look at those guidances and follow them so that we can ensure that our students and our staff are safe in schools and that we’re able to continue providing full-time in-person learning,” said Fitzgerald.
Current Chief Operation Officer for the International Bank of Chicago Robert Reed said he too would follow health guidelines, and added the district could improve its transparency with the metrics they’re following.
“I think the most important piece of this whole thing is the transparency the entire time of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re going to accomplish the goals that we need,” said Reed.
Adam Russo, a social worker, echoed he too would follow health guidelines, but feels parents should have the final say.
“I think parents should’ve had the choice about what they wanted to do. These parents did not have that opportunity. And I think when you look around and see other private and other public schools doing it I think it makes them question it,” said Russo.
Lessons Learned From Remote Learning
Another question asked to the candidates was what elements from remote learning should be incorporated going forward.
Christi Helm, a former elementary school teacher, said she’s learned a lot from remote learning, especially about how resilient students can be, and feels it should still be offered to families.
“I would like to see remote learning continue until all students, especially those that are extremely vulnerable, have an opportunity to get a vaccine if they so desire,” said Helm.
Amanda McMillen, a social worker, said remote learning is a great tool for families to stay engaged with the school district.
“I would love to see this continue especially for being able to do parent teacher conferences, town hall meetings, and other home and school meetings. As a parent that works in Chicago, it’s been a great way for me to stay engaged without having to travel and take time off of work to be able to stay connected with the schools,” said McMillen.
Incumbent, Donna Wandke said remote learning could help students in the district in multiple ways.
“The technology that we have in place in our classrooms now to stream and have students who are maybe home not feeling well but still want to able to still be incorporated in their classroom. The technology to be able to bring students across barriers, you know from, you know maybe even from across, being able to meet with other students across, you know, country barriers would be wonderful,” said Wandke.
Thomas Andrew Binkowski, a professor of computer science at the University of Chicago said remote learning has shown it can work through a K-12 setting and likes how much families have been involved with their child’s education.
“What I think is the most important is parents engagement has been [at an all-time high],” said Binkowski. “We need to capture that momentum and keep parents and families in their child’s education.”
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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