In-Person Learning at Lab School
To: President Robert Zimmer
Provost Ka Yee Lee
Vice Provost Daniel Abebe
Director David Magill
Board Chair David Kistenbroker
Faculty Association Head James Catlett
We are a group of Lab parents writing to request an immediate return to in-person learning for all Laboratory School students and transparent communication of a firm plan for the return of in-person instruction in the fall of 2021.
The dropping rates of COVID-19 prevalence in Illinois, Chicago, and Hyde Park; the vaccination of Lab teachers with a vaccine that is 95% effective; and the success of Lab’s N-2 program all suggest that reopening is relatively safe, even at 5 feet distance. For many of us, remaining remote represents the greater danger at this point.
The pandemic required unprecedented measures, and remote learning may have initially been the safe course. But, one year in, remote learning has become a crisis for the academic, social, and emotional wellbeing of our children. This crisis was exacerbated by the devastating and bewildering last-minute decision to cancel plans to return to full-time, in-person classes for grades 3-5--plans that 85% of families had agreed to enter.
This abrupt decision was a gross abdication of the trust and responsibility that parents have placed in Lab to provide a high-quality education for our children and to prioritize their social and emotional wellbeing.
Perhaps most frustrating of all, is the lack of transparent communication behind these decisions. Parents have no idea who is determining Lab programs and on what basis these decisions are being made.
- Immediate return to in-person learning:
- Return grades 3-5 to full-time, in-person learning, beginning March 1, 2021.
- Improve current hybrid plans for grades 6-12--with input from teachers and families--to allow students to come to campus more frequently, beginning March 29, 2021.
- Commitment to full-time, in-person learning for all grades, beginning fall 2021.
- Improved transparency in communication:
- Hold a forum, no later than February 26, 2021, with Lab and University representatives responsible for decision making present. ALL parent questions must be addressed, and those questions must be visible to all attendees.
- Create, by March 1, 2021, a method to disseminate to parents public documents related to the Faculty Association’s negotiations, filings, and other actions.
- Commit to forming, in the 2021-2022 school year, a true PTSA where parents, teachers, students, and administration make decisions together. Solicit parent volunteers to help establish the new association by July 1, 2021.
We, the undersigned, ask you to treat this crisis with gravity and with a focused determination to repair the trust badly damaged during this school year. A pandemic is a horrible force of nature; we cannot allow this tragedy to be further compounded with inaction, apathy, and misguided risk-aversion. We implore Lab to act now.