CHICAGO (Heartland Newsfeed) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday that in-person learning in schools will not resume for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. Remote learning days will take place for all K-12 education for the remainder of the school year. This announcement following careful consideration of science and from close consultations with public health leaders and experts across Illinois and nationwide.
Pritzker states during Friday’s press conference, “Our decisions must follow the science and the science says our students can’t go back to their normal routine this school year.”
“Over the last month, Illinois’ schools have stepped up and faced the many challenges of COVID-19 with generosity, creativity, and a resolute focus on caring for students, parents and communities,” Pritzker adds. “I am confident that our schools will manage and expand the learning opportunities for all our children who will be working from home over the coming weeks.”
Pritzker has been working with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to identify and provide the flexibility that school districts need to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Illinois to receive $569 million in Federal education funding
Illinois is expecting approximately $569 million in Federal educational funding as part of the CARES Act. The funding helps equip students with access to technology and Internet service to enhance the remote learning experience. Additionally, it allows for the support of teachers in the development of remote instruction skills. Finally, it will assist schools in the continuance of bringing meals to children and their communities.
The funding each district receives will be proportional to the number of low-income students they serve. ISBE will also receive funding as the state’s educational agency.
ISBE superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala is committing to directing CARES Act resources toward tacking the digital divide in districts with the least resources. This will be part of a strategic effort that will continue well beyond the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our school buildings may be closed, but the hearts and minds of our teachers and students are wide open,” states Ayala during the conference. “This pandemic has altered the fabric of how we teach, learn, and connect, but it has not shaken the core of what our schools do, which is take care of Illinois’ children and prepare them for what’s next.”
“Our schools focus on social and emotional skills, like resilience and empathy, for this very reason,” Ayala continues. “So that when the unpredictable events in life knock us down, we get right back up.”
Ayala closes, “The Illinois State Board of Education is addressing the digital divide head-on and planning for the transition back to school in the fall to help our students and educators face and overcome the challenges ahead.”
Planning for remote learning days
Every single school district in the Land of Lincoln has either developed or enacted plans ensuring all students will have access to instruction and their teachers.
ISBE has been establishing an advisory group to develop comprehensive recommendations for remote learning for all grade levels. These recommendations include grading suggestions, content selection and delivery, social-emotional development and family communication. The recommendations are available in English, Spanish, Polish and Arabic.
ISBE is also releasing recommendations to schools addressing learning loss and the social-emotional needs of students. This will likely be crucial for when in-person instruction resumes, should that become an option for the 2020-21 academic year.
Each district should also determine a local method of taking attendance and checking student engagement. Making virtual contact with students daily will help teachers understand the potential needs of students. This includes additional support on homework, meals and other needs.
Gov. Pritzker also waived EDTPA and student-teaching requirements for teaching candidates meeting the requirements for licensing. Additional emergency changes will ensure the pandemic doesn’t impact local districts’ ability to hire qualified educators.
Graduation requirements for high school seniors have been amended, given the current circumstances. For example, seniors can graduate with required participation in consumer education or physical education.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.