Lombard School District 44 creates 'action team' to reopen schools

LOMBARD, Ill. (WLS) -- Across Chicagoland, Lombard District 44 and other school districts are scrambling to put plans together so kids can return to school buildings in the fall.

It's proving to be a challenge, and there are many voices that want to be part of the process. Even young students in District 44, which includes six elementary schools and one middle school, seem to understand the gravity of the moment.

"I feel excited to go back to school and a little nervous," said Eowyn Eichhorst, a second-grade student at Hammerschmidt School in Lombard District 44.

"I'm a little bit worried because I don't know how many kids there might be in my class," Eowyn said. "And I don't know how many are going to be careful to not spread germs."

Even though she's 7 years old, Eowyn seems to grasp what every school district is up against right now as they try to implement the state's guidelines into plans and policies to return to school buildings.

"Our sole focus is how do we keep the students, our children, of the community safe? How can we go about doing that?" said Jenn Nimke, co-chair of the "Back to Action 44 Action Team." "Many people have different ideas, they have different vantage points and perspectives.

The "Back to Action 44 Team" will consist of school staff members, educational and custodial, along with community members, parents, administrators, and district leadership, she said. The team will hold a series of meetings in early July, and formulate a draft plan.

Since parents' input is so critical, Nimke says the superintendent will work directly with parents to get their feedback as well.

"We are really committed to making sure we hear the perspectives from all of our stakeholders," added Maria Martin,, co-share of the "Back to 44 Action Team."

Eowyn and her younger brother, Allyn, who is going into kindergarten, both have a genetic lung condition, according to their parents. And that's an added worry for their mom and dad.

"Our kids have a lung condition, so if they get sick...it's probably going to hit them a lot worse, a lot harder," said Faith Eichhorst, Eowyn's mother.

Instead, the family is preparing the children for new rules, like wearing a mask in the classroom each day.

"Sometimes I can't breathe well with a mask on, but I also think it's very safe and great to be wearing a mask," Eowyn said.

Lombard 44 hopes to have a draft plan to present to the school board on July 14th. Again, staff, parents, and community members are part of the process, according to district officials.

The final plan is expected to be finished by the end of July, but Martin and Nimke warn that the district must be nimble and flexible, depending on the changes Covid 19 may create in the days and months ahead.

Parents understand the challenges.

"I want them to be back" in school, said Fred Eichhorst, Eowyn's dad. "I just don't know how they're going to do it."

As for Eowyn, there are upsides to returning too. "I miss my classroom and I miss my friends," she said, "but I'm also very excited to start second grade."
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