Some District 91 parents are upset about a new mandate communicated via email to all families with children participating in hybrid learning, a “three strikes” rule that will exclude children from hybrid learning if their parents don’t follow procedure.

Apparently, each principal wrote a slightly different email to distribute to families, but the message was the same: the consequence of failure to follow COVID-19 related safety rules will result in a student being moved back into remote-only learning.

The email to Field Stevenson parents said that two scenarios will cause a child’s forced removal from hybrid learning: “repeated failure” to wear a mask at school and being “chronically late (3 times) or absent (3 times) … after the third absence their status will be changed to remote learning.”

From the beginning of D91 schools opening their doors for hybrid learning, rules have been communicated to parents.

During the March 11 school board meeting, Supt. Louis Cavallo addressed the board and the public, stating that hybrid school “has been running very smoothly, but it’s not been easy.”

“We do understand that everyone makes mistakes,” Cavallo said. “And we have to remind people to do things correctly. But we’ve tried to be patient and help people understand what it is we’re doing.”

Cavallo said he asked the principals at each location to remind parents of what had already been communicated to them in the back-to-school plan handbook provided even prior to families making the choice between remote and hybrid learning.

Cavallo stressed that the rules are clearly stated in that handbook. “These aren’t suggestions,” Cavallo said. “These are things that we have to follow.”

Taking temperatures is required upon entry to the school buildings, Cavallo said. As is completion of the symptoms checklist that must be filled out each school morning ahead of time. Allowing otherwise, he said, would create a “bottleneck of everyone waiting and, on their phones, trying to do their symptoms check.”

The rules were established to keep people safe and to ensure the smooth running of the schools, and ample time has been given to families to get used to the guidelines, Cavallo said.

“After five weeks, we said now we need to start tightening up a little bit because quite frankly, some parents never [adjusted],” Cavallo said. “We can’t have that bottleneck. If we’re going to bring back more kids — our whole entire goal is to bring back more kids  — we’ve got to fix some of these issues.”

If a parent or student, after weeks of being reminded, can’t follow the rules, it’s time to institute the three strikes rule, said Cavallo during the meeting. “It might be time to say look, maybe this isn’t working, maybe you need to be in remote, so that we can ensure we’re not causing an issue that’s going to cause us to not be able to bring back other kids.”

Cavallo suggested during the meeting that he had received a lot of feedback from unhappy parents regarding the “three strikes” emails sent out by principals. And during the meeting itself, several parents spoke up during the public comment section to express concern.

District 91 parent Todd Rathbun said that while he loves the school district and it’s been a great experience for his kids, he found the email “borderline offensive.” His own family, he said, struggles with running late at times, juggling children’s needs with jobs and getting out the door on time. He also he said questions whether it’s legal for the district to make such a threat.

“I also just generally question the legality of such a punishment,” Rathbun said. “I think if someone tried to enforce that and remove a kid to remote learning, it’s ample basis for a lawsuit given that this is a publicly funded tax dollar institution. I simply don’t think you can enforce that kind of thing.”

Another parent, with children in third grade and kindergarten in the district, said she, too, was unhappy with the three-strikes rule.

“First of all, have you ever tried to get a small child out the door for anything?” she asked. “Between managing breakfast, finding shoes, toothpaste and such, it’s another stressor that just adds to our day. And without a full mental breakdown of a kindergartener, you would never add a stress like a three-strike rule.”