Wheaton Warrenville South High School students fight for in-person learning, return of fall sports

WHEATON, Ill. (WLS) -- Just days into the school year, fed-up families chanted "Open up!" as they demanded students get back into the classroom at a rally in Wheaton Tuesday night.

The Memorial Park demonstration was organized by seniors at Wheaton Warrenvillle South High School. But it drew hundreds of west suburban students and their parents from various districts that have started the year with all-virtual instruction.

"We can do it," said Jaylen Brown, a student Wheaton Warrenville South. "We as a community can do things right and go back to school effectively."

The students at the rally had a simple and clear message: remote learning simply isn't school.

"Remote learning is not an alternative to in-person instruction," said Becca Haunstein, another student at Wheaton Warrenville South. "It is a completely different experience that fails to achieve the same results."

"I think it's very doable to open in-person safely," said Heather Beck, the parent of a student at Wheaton North High School. "Many of our friends are going to private schools. They've been doing it already for weeks."

Many here also want the state to lift restrictions on sports. St. Charles North student-athlete Zachary McClure said he may not be able to play college football with fall sports being delayed to the spring.

"The college coaches are going to go where the talent is and where the film is," McClure said. "They're not going to take a risk on someone that they don't have enough film on, and it'll be too late probably during the spring."

The IHSA said it continues to evaluate whether sports can be played safely. And in a statement, Wheaton Warrenville District 200 said: "We continue to work on revised plans that will allow us to bring middle and high school students back for an in-person learning experience for the families that select that option..."

"We want our kids' voices to be heard, and we want the state, and we want our local officials to hear the hearts of our children," said Eric Brown, a parent to students in District 200.

According to the DuPage County Health Department guidelines, the county's test positivity rate should be at or 5% for broad in-person learning to occur. It currently sits at 5.5%.
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