This week District 97 families who chose to return to school are finally having the opportunity to see their teacher for the first time. But while D97 has created a much needed return-to-school plan, the district has sacrificed its award-winning music, arts and foreign language programs. 

Prior to in-person learning, my fourth-grade girls had 5½ hours a week of live specials — arts, music, foreign language, library and PE with their teachers. Now under the Return to School Plan, they only have 90 minutes of live specials a week. They also had group instrumental lessons 30 minutes a week, which have now been cut to 15-20 minutes a week. An hour weekly art class is now 20 minutes a week. Spanish is cut from 90 minutes a week to 20 minutes. 

Yes, we needed to send our kids back to school, but why are we sacrificing our arts, music and foreign language programs?

What are we saying about the value of art and music in Oak Park? Instead of having our certified and trained teachers teach art, music and foreign languages, they are serving as teacher assistants and taking temperatures. We can do better, Oak Park, and we should. 

When it was time to sign up for the instrumental program this past fall, I wondered how would my fourth-graders learn a brand new instrument via Zoom. Was it worth the money to pay for the monthly rental program? To my surprise, it has been wonderful. They treasure their instrumental time as something special during this pandemic. It broke my heart to tell them that their class period is even shorter than before. Our kids need music, art, library and foreign language more than ever before.

I truly believe that Oak Park can do better. So many families choose to live here for the schools. It is a shame that our beloved music and arts programs are being sacrificed in the return-to-school plan. 

As parents and community members, we must ask D97 to do better and find creative solutions to solve this challenge for the third trimester.

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