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UPDATE: Parents frustrated after Unit 5, District 87 switch to all-online start to school year

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McLean County (WEEK) -- Area parents are reacting after District 87 and Unit 5 schools switched to an online-only learning format for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

District 87 had previously announced it would give parents the option of sending their kids to school or keeping them online. Unit 5 had also given options including in-person, all-virtual, and blended.

Now, both districts will begin instruction remotely across the board.

"I do know that our districts are kind of hanging out there, wondering if the Governor is going to come back and do what he did in the spring, and send everybody on remote to start the year," said Mark Jontry, the Regional Superintendent of Schools in McLean County.

A press release cites the rising cases around the country and community -- as well as larger school districts nationwide immediately shutting down classrooms, schools and entire districts due to positive cases.

With less than three weeks until the start of school, the announcement has left some parents scrambling and frustrated.

Mollie Emery, a parent in Unit 5 whose son has special needs, says she's worried she won't be able to provide her son with the teaching he needs.

"He has speech therapy and [occupational therapy] written into his IEP. So those are things I cannot create at home," Emery explained, "It's hard to watch your child, who you know is capable, go backwards."

Jason Francis' daughter is going into kindergarten in District 87 this fall.

"From age 4 to age 10, [they should] be able to go to school and have in-class learning rather than remote learning, because its going to be difficult for that age group to keep focus online," Francis worried, "I just don't know if they're going to be able to retain very much."

Both parents agreed that giving families the option- in-person or virtual learning- was the better way to go.

But Dist. 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said six-foot distancing between staff and students in schools could not be guaranteed.

Remote learning will be different in the fall compared to last spring.

Attendance will be taken and assignments will be graded.

Teachers will use district curriculum and supplemental resources for all classrooms and courses.

School registration is available at www.district87.org/registration or at ESC, 300 E. Monroe Street, Bloomington from 8:00-3:00 daily, according to the release.

District 87 Families: Please watch this video for an important update from Superintendent Reilly regarding the upcoming...

Posted by District 87 on Thursday, August 6, 2020

McLean County Unit 5 has also made the decision to begin the 2020 school year remotely.

Unit 5 also cites the closing of other schools nationwide that have been forced to close days after opening because of positive cases.

In a Facebook post from Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle, she says the first day of school will be August 24 and that attendance will be taken.

Food service will also be available.

The district will continue to evaluate local metrics and updated information about COVID-19.

"If we feel that we can safely bring students and staff back in mid-October we will offer a hybrid and online option for all students PreK-12," she said.

That decision will be made by October 1.

Reaction from parents was swift, as hundreds of comments flooded the districts' Facebook posts.

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