By Adrienne Fawcett
The Lake Forest High School teachers’ strike continues on Monday, Sept. 17, but the school will open with mandatory student attendance, many clubs and teams will meet, and students will even be asked to dress in honor of Spirit Week’s “Mad About Plaid” day. They just won’t have any regular classes.
The District 115 administration has created programming for an “alternative educational experience” that will be supervised by 50 certified substitutes and 50 volunteers, including professional guest speakers. Last week when D-115 administrators asked for volunteers from the community, so many people offered to help that they had to turn people away.
(Just two teachers have crossed the picket line, Superintendent Michael Simek told GazeboNews.)
At a parent meeting on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the LFHS east campus, Principal Jay Hoffman said the administration has a solid plan for Monday and Tuesday and that it’s developing a schedule for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the event the strike continues throughout the week. The administration vetted the plan with a committee of 50 student leaders as well as representatives from local police and fire departments, municipalities, clergy, Lake Forest College and others.
“Will quality programming be in place? Absolutely,” said Principal Hoffman, who jokingly added: “I’m worried the kids will like it better than real school.”
When they come to school on Monday, students will be required to show their photo ID. They’ll then be given a “passport” that will guide them through the day’s various programs for their grade level. The school will follow regular hours of 7:50 a.m to 3:10 p.m. For example, here’s part of the freshman schedule for Monday:
- 9 a.m.: Evolutionary Oddities, taught by science department head Jim Sullivan in the David Miller Theatre
- 10 a.m.: How to handle stress
- 11 a.m.: lunch, staffed by cafeteria employees (they’re not part of the teachers union)
- noon: a lecture on Criminal Justice & Fourth Amendment rights, to take place in the competition gym
- 1:10 p.m.: Students get to choose between yoga or open gym.
- 2:20 p.m.: Students will reconvene in the Raymond Moore Auditorium to watch best of telecom
- 3:10 p.m.: Dismissal
In order to conduct school during a strike, administrators had to determine if it was legal. They conferred with the state board of education and regional superintendent and learned that to do so, programming must be educational and 51% of the student body must attend for the day to count as a full day and for athletic contests to take place.
“The board asked the administration team to do what no one has done in the history of the state—to open school without a teaching staff,” said Superintdent Simeck, whose son and daughter attend LFHS. “The magnitude is tremendous.”
Sunday’s meeting was informational and not a public forum, so there were no heated questions or declarations from members of the audience. (Click here to read the email D-115 sent to parents summarizing the information.) Mr. Hoffman answered many basic questions, and he addressed one complaint that comes up in many conversations about the strike:
The question, said Mr. Hoffman, is: “Why don’t you just just fire the bums and hire new teachers?” (This was followed by applause from the audience, which numbered about 200 people.)
He replied: ”They are not bums. They are wonderful, awesome people.” (This was followed by applause as well.) “I look out on the picket line and I see awesome people, wonderful friends, people who love your kids. It’s hard to believe right now, but it’s true. We don’t want to do it without them. We want them back. Your kids want them back. Our 50 students said don’t get replacement teachers, we want them back. So do I. We need them, your kids need them and we are going to get them back here.”