Back-to-School Rally Advocates for Shift to In-Person Learning


Anika Raina

Many students and parents from District 128 attended the rally to show their support for going back-to-school.

On Sept. 29, a crowd of District 128 students and parents gathered in Cook Memorial Park to demand that the Board of Education give families a choice on whether students should return to in-person learning or continue remote learning.

Throughout the course of the rally, students and parents from both Vernon Hills and Libertyville High Schools, along with several medical professionals and a DJ, emphasized the importance of getting students back into school for in-person learning. 

LHS senior Chris Mulligan explained how tough the past five weeks of remote learning have been on him and his peers: “The reliance on technology leads to a lot of students getting kicked out of their [Zoom] classes and [they] lose materials that they need to learn. Struggling students aren’t able to get the help they need as they once were able to while in-person. It can be very difficult to stay motivated and to do all of your work and perhaps the worst of all, you can’t really see your friends while at ‘school’ and that has made this very [difficult].”

Libertyville Highschool Senior, Chris Mulligan, and former LHS graduate, Katie Mulligan, explained many reasons why students should return to in-person learning.
Libertyville Highschool Senior Chris Mulligan, and former LHS graduate Katie Mulligan, explained many reasons why students should return to in-person learning. (Anika Raina)

Callie Johnson, a nurse for Oak Grove School who has children attending LHS, explained how she has been going to school every day and has watched students and teachers prosper in a well-coordinated environment: “I can now say we are on week five and we have had not one single COVID case in the school.”

Johnson urged teachers and students to return to in-person learning. 

“Parents of D128, the health and safety guidelines are available. We need our high schools to put these guidelines into place and to create safe protocols and procedures that make sense now,” she said.

Johnson believes that waiting for a vaccine and proper social distancing guidelines is not the answer. Students should return to school as soon as possible. 

“Our children are disconnected, their academic needs are not being met at home and our children are showing residual side effects of poor leadership,” she said. “Do our schools value our children enough to prepare them for success, or will we let fear drive those decisions for D128?” 

The school board addressed some of the concerns speakers raised at the Board of Education meeting that took place later that night.

“We remain committed to opening our schools as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Pat Groody, board president. 

Groody also raised caution, saying “[there are] plenty of examples throughout the country where places have relaxed their guard with adverse consequences.” 

Some at the event asserted that teachers and the board need to be doing more for students. 

Supporters at the rally gathered in Cook Memorial Park with signs and posters.
Supporters at the rally gathered in Cook Memorial Park with signs and posters. (Anika Raina)

“Teachers [at LHS] get paid over six figures,” said Beckett Abington, a senior at LHS. “They should take some risks and provide an education to students.”  

Dr. Vincent Boom, who moved his wife and child to a different state so they could attend school in-person, went farther and said, “We’re not having a problem with COVID. We’re having a problem with feckless leadership.” 

He encouraged those attending the rally to vote for new candidates running for school board. 

Other attendees were concerned with the social aspect of school. Vito Accettura, a senior at VHHS, said “I want to see my friends again. It’s annoying watching other schools playing sports while I have to sit back.” 

 LHS Senior Elena Kafkis, gave a speech at the rally urging the School Board to consider in-person learning.

LHS Senior Elena Kafkis, gave a speech at the rally urging the school board to consider in-person learning. (Anika Raina)

However, some students who attended the rally were not in favor of a return to in-person learning. Tyler Bever, a senior at LHS, is the son of two teachers. 

“[Returning to in person learning] really scares me. If my [parents] are dead, who’s going to take care of me?” he asked.

At the school board meeting, many raised concerns about the logistics of returning to in-person learning. 

“It’s almost impossible to do [social distancing] with 60 kids in the building,” said Jon Guillaume, principal at VHHS, who worried about not being able to follow safety procedures with larger numbers of students. 

D128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea explained the issue of insurance, saying “none of the school districts in Illinois have liability insurance because ‘pandemic’ is not covered.” 

The school board is meeting again on Monday, Oct. 5, to continue discussing this issue.