‘It’s kind of upsetting,’ Peoria parents react to shift of virtual learning a week ahead of the first day of classes

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — One of Central Illinois’ largest school districts educates more than 12,500 students. Classrooms will now sit empty as homes across the area turn into virtual learning spaces by next Wednesday. Peoria Public Schools (PPS) officials announced Monday night an abrupt adaptation to how classes will look come Wednesday, August 19.

“It’s kind of upsetting as a parent,” said Latrese Coats, PPS Parent. “I’m one of the parents who’s been working since March, so when they decided virtually…now I will not be home to help my kids learn virtually.”

Coat’s oldest, a senior at Woodruff Career and Technical Center, is going through the medical training program, which equips students with certifications and hands-on experience.

“She said this year is all hands-on and that’s where she needs to be…in school to do this hands-on learning for her,” said Coats.

Caitlin Moats, a parent of a seventh-grader at Linburgh Middle School, said she feels like her son’s individualized educational plan (IEP) has been put on the back burner.

“We haven’t received any plan(s) to make the parents feel comfortable that our children’s needs are going to be met during this time, so it’s frustrating,” said Moats.

Moats said Tuesday a backup plan should have been implemented earlier with COVID-19 case numbers on the rise locally.

“I don’t understand why it wasn’t planned for remote?” asked Moats. “Because I know in the back of their mind they were thinking, ‘we might go to remote eventually.’ So why not start the school year out like that? Plan for remote? Plan for the kids with special needs… how are we going to give them their services provided? But with a week left…there’s not enough time.”

Peoria Public Schools officials relayed a voice message to parents Tuesday saying each principal is responsible for transitioning their own building. The district also said it’s partnering with nine different agencies to help aid working parents with the changeover.

The Peoria Federation of Teachers Local 780 fought for remote learning Monday night.

When WMBD reached out for comment on the district’s decision, the union wrote back reading “we’re holding off on commenting until we get our minds wrapped around what this shift means.”

Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat emailed parents Tuesday writing COVID-19 has upended the norms, expectations, and routines since March. She also said the district has adapted for the sake of the health and well-being of students, staff, and families.

“We realize what’s happening in our community,” said Kherat. “We’re a microcosm of what’s happening in our community, whatever those [COVID-19] numbers are. I also felt the tick within my organization, and so I’m definitely in support of this decision.”

Kherat said even though the district has put in a tremendous effort to implementing a hybrid plan, instruction and growth will be the benchmark for the fall’s virtual learning.

“This is true teaching,” said Kherat. “Grades. New material. Just like class. Just like school. Assessments…ongoing assessments. Homework. That sort of thing, so we’ve redesigned our instructional platform, but we’ve just taken it virtually.”

More information is expected to be released for K-8 parents for the option of switching from the virtual model to the distanced learning hybrid option.

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