The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our lives in immeasurably ways in 2020, perhaps no more so than the effect it’s had on our elementary and secondary level students. 

In District 96, the school board and administrators have grappled with a wide array of circumstances, challenges and concerns, and have come forth with a science-based Hybrid Return to School plan that balances the health concerns our students, teachers and staff face with the understandable and important need to keep everyone healthy and safe during the continuation of the pandemic. 

The plan allows for in-person learning, but maintains a remote option for all those who as of yet feel uncomfortable putting their children in a socialized environment.

As the parents of four children in the District 96 system, my spouse and I intend to send our children to school to try to maintain a small sense of normalcy for them. But our choice is personal, and we understand and empathize with those who are choosing a different path. 

As a policymaker, I feel it’s imperative District 96 and similarly situated districts be allowed to attempt in-person learning to determine whether it can work — with the caveat that if the COVID statistics worsen, a return to all-remote should occur. 

Public education is the cornerstone of a functioning community. It’s the most important thing we can do to ensure continuity and stability, especially during these difficult times. The predisposition to be concerned and tentative is understandable, but shouldn’t block a comprehensive approach to at least trying to return children to in-person learning. 

Both state and federal government officials have lots of work to do to make our schools safe during the pandemic, including increased funding for PPE, immediate and accessible testing, broadband access, infrastructure improvements and front-line worker pay to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to public education. 

But now is the time to pull together and support our school’s attempt to do that which is hard but necessary. 

Michael J. Zalewski


Michael J. Zalewski represents the 23rd District in the Illinois House of Representatives.