Parents who want schools to reopen this fall say it’s a matter of choice, not politics. ‘Students’ mental health … has got to be weighed.’

Karen Ann Cullotta:

When Mairin Gradek’s local schools superintendent posted a cheerful YouTube video in early July describing tentative plans to welcome students back into the classroom, the Arlington Heights mother of three was excited that more remote learning was merely an option for parents, not the whole plan.

Gradek’s optimism that her neighborhood schools would reopen this fall was also buoyed by the results of a recent School District 25 survey, which found that around 75% of parents supported either an in-person or hybrid plan, with remote learning trailing as the least popular option in third place.

But in recent days, District 25 joined a rapidly growing list of suburban school systems that have abandoned hopes of bringing kids back into the classroom at the start of the new school year.

Officials in District 25, Barrington District 220, Wheeling-based District 21, Plainfield District 202 and Stevenson and Evanston Township high schools, among others, have all reverted from in-person or hybrid plans to an all-remote start to the new year, deciding the risks of bringing students and teachers together are too high with COVID-19 still far from contained.