Illinois educators voice concerns about returning to classrooms amid COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Teachers statewide are pushing to begin the school year with remote learning, fearing most school districts can't reopen safely.

Niles North High School teacher Pankaj Sharma has been spending his summer gearing up to teach remotely.

The north suburban school plans to begin the school year with online instruction before eventually phasing in high needs students for in-person learning after Labor Day.

"A lot of our students live in multigenerational homes with their grandparents. We don't want anyone being exposed by coming to school," Sharma said.

Concerns like Sharma's has teachers across the state pushing back on plans from several districts to return to school.

Monday, the Illinois Federation of Teachers echoed the call from the Chicago Teachers Union, asking for every district to begin remotely.
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The Chicago Teachers Union is calling for remote learning in the fall amid concerns over the upcoming school year.



According to studies, IFT says almost a quarter of educators are high risk due to underlying health conditions

"I think everyone's fear is as we go back, we'll see more and more cases, more terrible illness and tragic outcomes," said Dan Montgomery, President of Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Montgomery promises remote learning will be much better than what everyone experienced in the spring when teachers were not prepared.

Teachers, like Sharma, are working with their colleagues on the best ways to teach remotely.

"You have to have a variety of ways to engage students. Sometimes its synchronous, it's live streaming; sometimes face to face, sometimes its asynchronous posting assignments research projects," Sharma said.

Despite the call from teachers unions, many Illinois school districts, including Chicago Public Schools are planning for a hybrid model which will be a combination of in-school and remote learning.

"As long as the public health situation can safely support our model, we believe the hybrid model will best meet the needs of our students and families," said CPS CEO Janice Jackson.

While every district has a plan in place or is working on one, administrators say they are all subject to change. They say it all depending on COVID metrics, and that at the very least, the state requires every school to have a remote plan ready to go.
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