Several dozen Plainfield students and parents rallied with signs along Lincoln Highway, and said the efforts to keep people safe is actually harming children.
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"Education is the most important thing here to me, but also their mental health, all of it wrapped together," said Sherrie Graham, parent. "And then the things that seniors are missing out on, their once-in-a-lifetime experiences, their sports, their chance to go to state, their homecoming."
"We want the option to be able to get back into the classroom, and we totally understand a family that has concerns about going back," said Steve Orlando, District 202 parent. "E-learning is great for some, but it's not working on our household."
The group gathered outside District 202 headquarters to say they want the choice to opt into in-person instruction. Some said it has created inequalities in education.
"I shouldn't be penalized because we're not in a financial position to afford private school, because the school across the street from my son's elementary school, they're attending classes right now," said Nickalette Casey, parent.
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That message was echoed in Barrington where a similar rally was staged.
"We're not denying the existence of COVID. We know it's having an impact, but we hear the saying that the cure is worse than the disease, and we're truly seeing that," said Jerry Ewalt, Barrington parent.
Will County, where Plainfield is located, forms the state's Region 7 along with Kankakee County, and that region continues to be subject to COVID-19 mitigation measures. The test positivity rate there is 7.6%, well above the target of below 5%, a metric some consider critical to getting kids back into the classroom. There is also a rate of new cases that is about double the target threshold.
Plainfield school officials said they also want students and teachers back in schools, but it's just not safe to do so yet. There are also various considerations when it comes to the school day.
"Staffing issues. Substitute teacher issues. The pool of sub teachers, particularly out here in the suburbs, is extremely thin. Logistics issues. Safety protocols in terms of PPE, being able to get ahold of PPE, appropriate numbers of that," said Tom Hernandez, director of community relations for District 202.
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There are more rallies in other suburbs planned for later this week.