ST. CHARLES – For St. Charles North High School senior Belle Recchia, remote learning has been a challenge.
"I'm not very productive," she said. "I would rather be in school, learning with other kids. Students want to get back to learning. We want to get back to see our friends. We want to get back to seeing our teachers and just having the full experience."
Recchia was among those participating in a rally Monday calling for the district to change its back-to-school plans. The rally was held outside Thompson Middle prior to a Dist. 303 School Board meeting, where parents also called for a return to in-person learning.
St. Charles North and St. Charles East high schools have begun the school year with remote learning. Prior to the school district changing its plans, high school students were going to receive a combination of in-person and remote learning.
Recchia has been doing remote learning since when the pandemic started last spring, when she was a junior. She now feels she is behind in her studies.
"At the end of my junior year, I definitely didn't learn as much as I did at the beginning," she said. "And I feel this year, I am not learning as much, just because I feel like I'm overwhelmed with the amount of work and I get lost with what I'm supposed to do."
St. Charles North senior Frankie Iovinelli also wants to get back to the classroom.
"We still can't do group meetings and group activities," he said. "The learning is basically through YouTube and we don't need teachers for that. And YouTube is not a good source for learning. We need actual classroom activities."
District 303 parent Shannon Sullivan organized the rally and two other rallies also calling for in-person learning. Both her children attend St. Charles North High School and have been in the district since they were in kindergarten.
Sullivan said she think the message is getting across.
"I do believe the board members are listening," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said it's up to the district – not the state – to reopen schools.
"It's not state driven," she said. "If it was state driven, then there wouldn't be districts around us opening."
Pointing to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the state and nation, St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 has decided to use a staggered, phase-in approach to in-person learning when the new school year started on Aug. 19.
Staffing also figured into the district's decision to change its back-to-school plans at the high school level.
"When you go from elementary school to middle school to high school, the degrees required and the teaching certifications become more and more specialized and more and more discreet," District 303 Chief Academic Officer Denise Herrmann had previously said. "So if we have a third grade teacher or a seventh grade teacher absent, pretty much any adult with a teaching certification or a sub license can take good lesson plans and implement them. But at the high school, you're teaching calculus or physics or French 4."
She noted that at the high school level, it's harder to secure substitute teachers, especially when other school districts are also looking for substitute teachers because of the pandemic. Herrmann also noted some substitute teachers might have a weakened immune system.
"Our need to go remote to start was based on staffing for adults and student safety," she had said.