School reopening was the hot topic of the night, and although limited information is known about a high school return, both public participants and LSC representatives still had plenty to say, including on the Lane cluster program, which has returned to in-person learning. Teachers sent a strong message during public participation that they do not want a return to school as the city continues to see high positivity numbers, while parent representatives remained hesitant to put anything in writing regarding high school reopening without first consulting the parent community.
In addition, Friends of Lane gave an update on their fundraiser, the LSC officially voted to send a letter to CPS in support of the Lane Stadium field dedication and much more. Here’s a full recap:
Thursday’s LSC meeting saw the most public participation since last August’s school resource officer special meeting. There were 57 viewers on the Zoom call at the start of the meeting, and 22 public participants.
Before public participation commenced, Chairperson Haite said she had received 5 emails about removing “racist imagery” at the school, such as the totem pole between Doors A and D; the Memorial Garden statue of a Native American; and the fire curtain in the auditorium, which depicts a Native American. Haite said these can’t be removed by the LSC because they are overseen by the CPS Department of Arts Education, but people can formally request removal to the CPS Director of Arts Education.
Following this, the 22 public participants each got their time to speak.
Of the 22 public participants, only the first two speakers, both Lane parents, were amenable to returning to in-person learning. Both said they had not heard enough from CPS about a high school reopening, and that there are safe ways to do it.
The next twenty speakers, the majority of whom were teachers, gave stories of loss and provided countless points, from inequity to CPS lying to parents and media, all to say that now is not the right time to return.
The public participation comments are as follows:
Jane Adams, a parent at Lane, said she wants to hear about reopening for high schools. She thinks people should be “creative” and “innovative,” and figure out if reopening can be done safely because it would be “great for the kids.”
Ellen Rothenberg, also a parent at Lane, said that not hearing anything about a high school return is a little unsettling for parents who are interested in getting their kids back to school. She said that every school is charged with figuring out their own methods of getting kids back in school, which over the past few months really has not been the case. Rothenberg said that she’s hoping that if there’s a green light from CPS, with mitigation measures, schools should be able to open safely and students can go back to school.
Heather Saylor, a Lane counselor, said she wants the LSC to submit a statement to CPS affirming their commitment to continuing remote learning. She wants Lane, as the largest school in Chicago, to send a message on remote learning. She also wants to “bust the myth” that students are falling behind, because “learning is happening.”
Andrew Ricks, a Lane teacher and head coach of the boys varsity soccer team, said he doesn’t think we should “rush it.” Ricks, who has taught at Lane since 1999, wants to wait for vaccines. He doesn’t think it worth going back to school, even with mitigation measures, for the risk of one life. He said that chances are if schools reopen, there will be an outbreak, and the switch from remote to in-person back to remote would be disruptive to students.
Jennifer Snyder, a Lane teacher, said that as a high school teacher and a parent of elementary school students, she wants to think about the long-term and do what’s best for the students in the long-term.
Celeste Ramovic, a Lane teacher, said the COVID-19 rates are terrible and reopening will lead to outbreaks. She pointed towards how the cluster program returned and there’s already been a COVID case. Ramovic said that if Black lives matter, Lane needs to make a statement. She said that learning is still happening, and her students are learning about politics and history in real time. She wanted the LSC to pass a resolution about how Lane wants distance learning until safe return is possible.
Katie Shah, an alumna and current CPS substitute, said she doesn’t want a hybrid reopening. She said that CPS misled parents and that health experts don’t know a lot about reopening COVID rates because the science is ongoing. “We are not lab rats,” she said.
Lucy Perez, a Lane teacher who has several family members with COVID-19, wants the LSC to pass a resolution in favor of remote learning. She said Lane can do something now. “Later, it may be too late.”
Javier Payano, a Lane alum and teacher, spoke while in a mask to be in solidarity with the teachers who have been locked out of remote learning after refusing to return to work. He said that remote learning is hard for everyone and people are struggling, but people’s lives are more important than anything. He said that people need to put humanity first. Payano said that the LSC should send a message to CPS rejecting any proposal for in-person learning until it is safe to go back. Payano, in reference to the book “How to be an Anti-Racist,” which Principal Tennison bought staff members, said that keeping schools closed is anti-racist and that Black lives matter. “I believe in the story of Lane Tech to set the example for the city,” he said.
Miles Comiskey, a Lane teacher, said originally he was on the fence about returning, but that the 7.6% positivity rate is too high and Lane students come from all over the city, which could lead to an increase in transmission. “As a healthy 31-year-old, this is honestly not about me,” he said. Instead, it’s about other teachers and students, Comiskey said. He thinks the LSC should pass a resolution against a return to school.
Elizabeth Lee, a Lane Tech teacher, said that CPS has been dishonest with the public and media. She says that students will get less instructional time under a hybrid model. Going back is an issue of equity, she said. Unless we can ensure that everyone has access to healthy food, good health care and more, returning is inequitable, Lee said. Struggling with remote learning is better than losing one life, she said, and urged the LSC to pass a resolution against a return to school.
Amira Holandi, a Lane student, said they supports what the teachers said. Going back to class is inequitable, they said. “I will have all of my life to study; I will not have all of my life if I die of the virus.” Returning is dangerous and risking lives, Holandi said.
Daniel Stone, a Lane teacher, said he is scared for himself and for his students. He said he lost his mother last May after she contracted COVID-19, and he wants the LSC to pass a resolution against a return to school.
Jeffrey Solin, a Lane teacher, wants the LSC to pass a resolution against a return to school. He said he got an email from a student who lost grandmother from COVID, and yesterday he got an email from the same student, who had just lost their uncle. Solin says he knows how trying it’s been being a parent, but he doesn’t understand the rush to return.
Devon Morales, a Lane teacher, said the LSC should pass a resolution against a return to school. She said that students need continuity, and that students have tested positive in every one of her classes. She added that being back in person will increase chances of COVID.
Lisa Tacke-Pucylowski, a Lane teacher, said that students need community and connection. She wants to be equitable and doesn’t want to return in-person.
Misty Esguerra, a Lane teacher, said she will not put her kids in jeopardy and will not put other people’s kids in jeopardy. She said that way too many people are losing their lives, and Lane can’t go back. She wants Lane to remain remote.
Nathan Nordlund, a Lane teacher, said that there is learning that is happening and he wants students to stay home.
Eric Garcia, the new student representative, said that students are learning and teachers have been flexible. He said that safety is the number one priority, and Lane can’t go back safely. He pointed towards how there have been cases even without everyone being in the building. He said he doesn’t think it would be wise to go back.
Felicia Walker, a parent of a student with special needs, said she wants the LSC to pass a resolution against a return to school. She doesn’t want to risk her son’s life to send him back to school. Also, she said she stands in solidarity with teachers on the motion against remote learning and would rather keep kids at home because their lives matter.
Sam Veren, a Lane teacher and band director, said that the safest option is to remain remote until everyone is vaccinated. He said he encourages the LSC to vote yes on a resolution to remain remote.
Michelle Vale, a Lane teacher and head coach of the girls varsity soccer team, said she can’t not speak for students. She said she works with a lot of Latinx students and while they haven’t talked about a return to school, conversations focus on how they feel they’re not treated equitably. Vale said she urges the LSC to consider how Black and brown students feel, and wants the LSC to pass a resolution against a return to school.
Principal Brian Tennison gave his monthly principal’s report at the meeting. Tennison started off by saying everyone should appreciate the difficulty of the situation that teachers are in at this time.
Tennison also applauded special education classroom assistants.
“They’re amazing people, they’ve always been amazing people, but to see them work during such a difficult time is awe-inspiring,” Tennison said, and acknowledged that “it’s been tough. It’s been tough on everybody.”
He also commended clerks, custodial staff and security. Tennison said he knows the big struggle is monotony and screen time. “To students, I want to say, ‘Hang in there.’”
Tennison said that no one has yet heard concrete plans about high school reopening, and that the only parameters he could access were the ones that CPS provided over the summer, which included only freshmen and sophomores returning, and learning in pods of 15. He said students would need to be reprogramed for this pod set-up because they’re not podded currently. He also reminded everyone that because Lane is a CPS school, it must follow CPS policy.
Tennison acknowledged Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) and Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) ruling on some low-risk winter sports returning in Chicago, but said that CPS has not made an official statement. While athletics for parts of the state are supposed to start next week, until he gets an official email from CPS, Lane cannot start sports. He added that if he gets an email on Friday that says sports can begin on Monday, they won’t be able to open until Wednesday because the school needs time to prepare. He also said that student-athletes will receive athletic information from coaches.
Tennison also addressed CPS contact tracing. He said that Lane itself does not oversee that service, and when there is a COVID-19 case reported at the school, he simply receives a notification. This comes after a case was announced this past week. Tennison said he has no idea who it is.
When talking about graduation, Tennison said that nothing is concrete, but he is assuming that we’ll not all be gathering in a closed space for graduation. He said Lane cannot, at this time, book a graduation venue, per CPS rules. He said there will at least be a ceremony with a drive-through, and he is waiting to see what CPS guidelines are.
Tennison’s final remark was that the school got a large shipment of air purifiers in the case that high schools do return.
Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC)
Teacher Representative Katharine Gomez gave the PPLC report. Gomez said the PPLC is continuing to examine equitable grading practices. The committee discussed the power of giving students a zero and is searching for more positive alternatives. They also are identifying which grading practices are effective and which can be improved to help increase student success.
Chairperson Haite gave a very brief report on the Renaming Committee, tasked with finding a new symbol for the school. Haite said that the Committee is hoping to get a survey out in February, once finals are over.
Friends of Lane
Parent Lisa Borelli gave this month’s Friends of Lane report. Borelli said that Friends of Lane wants to help with the technology needs of being remote. Borelli went on to say that the Annual Appeal has been focused on students’ and teachers’ technology needs. Friends of Lane has raised $183,000 to date, she said, which is down from what they normally make, but they are “grateful and humbled” because they know that many people are struggling.
Friends of Lane is also looking to get technology for the music department, including possibly microphones. Additionally, Borelli said there is internal planning going on with regard to a virtual Green and Gold Gala.
According to Borelli, participation in Friends of Lane meetings has “exploded” since the meetings became virtual. She cited a recent virtual comedy night that over 200 people attended. She added that the organization’s next big fundraising idea is a concert featuring Lane music teachers.
Borelli talked about the virtual holiday appreciation for staff. She said donations were three times higher than previous years, all from parents and community members. All Lane staff members were given a $50 gift card.
Borelli closed out the report by saying that Friends of Lane is there to support graduation preparations.
Alumni Association president Michelle Weiner was not at yesterday’s meeting, so there was no report this month.
The LSC unanimously approved two checks: one to purchase $73,600 worth of Jostens yearbooks that students ordered at Quick Start, and a second payment of roughly $14,550 for HUDL Agile Sports Technologies, which will allow sports teams and the drama and music departments to film and critique their students. According to Lane Athletic Director Nicholas LoGalbo, this software will allow teachers to provide better instructional feedback to their actors, players and musicians.
School clerk Jill Woods also noted that because COVID has precluded traditional graduation celebrations, the typical $95 senior graduation fee has been reduced to $30. The eighth grade graduation fee has been reduced from $85 to $30.
There were no fundraiser approvals necessary at this LSC meeting.
Approve raising check approval amount
According to Haite, LSCs typically have to approve all checks for amounts over $2,000. At a school of Lane’s size, this would mean that almost every check would need LSC approval. As such, at the beginning of every two-year LSC cycle, the council moves to raise the check approval amount to over $9,999. The motion passed unanimously.
CPS Back to school
There were three big takeaways from the reopening portion of Thursday’s LSC meeting.
(1) The LSC will write a letter to the CPS Board of Education addressing concerns about how the Lane cluster program has reopened for in-person instruction. According to LSC Chairperson Emily Haite, who said she heard from parents and teachers of students in the cluster program, special education teachers had to buy some of their own personal protective equipment (PPE); some students are unable to wear masks and paraprofessionals; and teachers and special education classroom assistants (SECAs) often cannot keep six feet distance because they have to physically care for their students. Another LSC member said that cluster teachers have reported mouse excrement in their classrooms and dust on the tables, indicating poor cleaning. According to Haite, there have been at least two positive cases of COVID-19 in the Lane cluster program.
(2) The LSC will by Jan. 29 send a survey to parents and students to gauge those groups’ opinions about in-person instruction for high schools. This comes after about 20 public participants, primarily teachers, voiced their concerns with in-person learning and urged the LSC to join other high schools in passing a resolution against a high school return to in-person learning. The LSC’s parent representatives expressed their reluctance to support such a resolution without having heard from their constituents. Parent Representative Patricia O’Keefe added that because of differences in home environments and access to proper nutrition, learning at home can also be inequitable. She reiterated the need to learn more from CPS.
(3) The LSC will hold a special meeting on Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. to decide whether to pass a resolution against in-person instruction for high schools. According to LSC members, this will give them the time to analyze survey responses and act in accordance with the constituents’ wishes, as well as glean a better view of how CPS will handle high school reopening.
Haite also recounted that there were 22 public participants, 20 of whom were in favor of staying remote. Twelve of those 20 specifically asked the LSC to pass a resolution against in-person classes for high schools.
Teacher representative Daniel Law noted that he took an informal poll, to which 133 teachers have responded thus far. About 78.8% of those teachers said that students would not be safe in in-person classes, and 79.6% said that teachers would not be safe in in-person classes. There was also an open-ended question on the survey, the results of which Law distilled to seven main points:
Teachers have high risk family members and are wary to put them in danger.
Large numbers of students take public transportation and will likely spread COVID-19 to their respective neighborhoods.
Social distancing at Lane is not realistic because there are too many students, and these students would likely socialize before and after school.
Teachers don’t believe that simultaneous hybrid teaching would work.
Teachers don’t believe that CPS will deliver on logistical promises regarding PPE, room cleaning, etc.
Teachers ask, “Why go back without a vaccine when vaccines are so close?”
Teachers ask, “Why add additional risk to anyone’s life when it’s not necessary?”
Law concluded by recalling how a student of his was on a Meet call with Law when she learned that her grandfather contracted COVID-19. Within 48 hours, Law said, the student’s grandfather passed away.
Law added, “I don’t want to attend my students’ funerals.”
Stadium Name Changes
Chairperson Haite put a motion on the table to approve a letter in support of dedicating the field within Lane Stadium to honor Lane alum Fritz Pollard. The letter will be sent to CPS, the Board of Education and 47th Ward Ald. Matt Martin. The motion was unanimously approved. The Lane Tech Alumni Association will assume administrative functions and oversee the entire process.
Prior to the official LSC meeting, an organizational meeting was held, as this was the first meeting of the year and the new LSC term. Two new members — Student Representative Eric Garcia and Parent Representative Catherine Ashlaw-Dohery — started their terms.
Community Representative Ana Borja-Scales was the only member not present for the meetings. At the organizational meeting, the leadership positions were selected. After a temporary chairperson (Parent Representative Emily Haite) and temporary secretary (Parent Representative Anne Lokken) were chosen, the board officially was able to vote on positions for this upcoming year.
All positions will be held by their incumbents. Haite will remain chairperson, Borja-Scales will continue serving as secretary, Parent Representative Laura Symons is set to remain vice-chair, and Lokken will stay on as Freedom of Information Act/Opening Meetings Act Officer.
Prior to the vote, Parent Representative Patricia O’Keefe called for more strict agendas this upcoming term, such as acknowledging what items are being voted on and what is just for discussion.
Haite said that this can be difficult because there are often last minute changes, but she will try to improve the agendas.
The LSC announced that meetings will continue to be scheduled for the third Thursdays of the month, with the exception of a June 3 meeting, at 6:30 p.m.
The organizational meeting wrapped up with a discussion on caps on public participation. After debate, the LSC agreed to make a Rule of Order for LSC Meetings that keeps two minutes per speaker for public participation, for up to two hours.
Notably, the LSC allowed only one hour of public participation for the special meetings regarding the school symbol and school resource officers this summer.
Following the conclusion of the organizational meeting, the actual LSC meeting started immediately.
The next meeting of the LSC will be Feb. 9 at 6:30. This will be a special meeting regarding reopening and the results of the reopening survey. The next regular meeting of the LSC will be Feb. 18 at 6:30.