During the meeting in question, the board voted to keep Lake Forest High School open for in-person learning despite rapidly rising COVID-19 positivity rates.
LAKE FOREST – The Lake Forest High School teachers strongly believe the Lake Forest School District 115 Board of Education (BOE) violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA). The Lake Forest Education Association (LFEA) alerted the Illinois Attorney General’s office after the BOE held a meeting with less than the 48 hours of notice required by law. The LFEA believes the BOE also violated several other provisions of the OMA including restricting public comments and improperly entering closed session.
The board meeting in question was held on Oct. 22. During that meeting, the BOE voted to keep Lake Forest High School open for in-person learning. On Oct. 20, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) advised that all schools in the county shift to virtual learning because of growing COVID-19 infection rates.
“This is unreal. The board had zero discussion in an open forum, disregarded the medical experts and made a decision that seriously impacts the health and safety of our students,” LFEA President Becca Schwartz said. “We are continuing to call for transparency and a return to remote learning as it was prior to October.”
The BOE on several occasions has said they will work with the LCHD to keep students safe:
- Oct. 5: Board President David Lane said, “The district consults regularly with the Lake County Health Department to ensure we are meeting their evolving requirements.” The link to the video can be found here.
- July 27: Board member Dr. Tomas Nemickas said, “Don’t believe that if data changes, that this decision may also change as well. People need to understand this is a very fluid situation, and we’re making best decisions based on data available at this time.” The audio can be found here.
- Aug. 4: Board member John Noble said, “If we are ordered to shut the school from higher authority, we will not go against the higher authority at that juncture.” The video can be found here.
- Aug. 4: Board President David Lane said, “We will, of course, continue to follow the guidance of the governor, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Health and the Lake County Public Health Department.” The video can be found here.
“It’s clear the board didn’t want anyone watching when they went back on their word. And now, their last-minute meeting is putting lives at risk. These decisions should be made collaboratively, not unilaterally,” Schwartz said.
The LFEA represents 158 teachers, social workers, psychologists and counselors in District 115, providing an education to the more than 1600 students of Lake Forest High School.
Currently, freshmen and sophomores are attending in-person classes at Lake Forest High School. Juniors and Seniors were scheduled to start hybrid learning plans, but now will continue remote learning.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.