E-learning

Peter Medlin

Jeanine Szostak wanted to make the best of a scary situation. COVID-19 had just shut down schools and her DeKalb middle and high school kids were stuck at home with her trying to help them get their footing with online learning. 

Spencer Tritt

Today felt like the first day of school, even though Hinckley-Big Rock is eight months into the school year. That’s according to Jessica Sonntag, the director of student services there.

It’s the first day they’ve had all of their students in school all day. But, there are 20 students who have been in-person all day since last August: those who receive special ed accommodations for 70% or more of their school day.

Spencer Tritt

Illinois K-12 teachers will soon get their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. They’re in Phase1B of the state’s vaccine rollout, which starts on Monday.

Griff Powell is one of DeKalb Public Schools’ interim superintendents. He said they’ve been informed that teachers will start getting their first dose of the vaccine soon.

Spencer Tritt

Most Illinois students have been learning remotely for some if not the entire fall.

Students of all grade levels are struggling with the academic and emotional stress of remote learning in a pandemic.

School districts have offered additional social-emotional support to try and help them manage the array of challenges.

SD209

Students in the Proviso School District are still learning remotely as COVID-19 case rates go up across Illinois. But their teachers are now working inside the district’s school buildings, despite safety concerns and the Teachers’ Union filing of an Unfair Labor Practice & Grievance against the district.

 

Almost 300 Proviso teachers have been back for a week now. Maggie Riley -- she’s the president of the Proviso Teachers’ Union -- said the conditions are exactly what they were worried about. 

 

Peter Medlin

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge, we have Jason Cavanaugh. He’s a high school math teacher and baseball coach in Sycamore.

They’re learning remotely. So, Jason is going into his empty, retrofitted math class to teach kids who are at home. Obviously, he’s never done this before, the students haven’t either. And, as you can imagine, the technology is not always flawless.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge episode we have Deb Baird. She has ran her own at-home daycare business since 1984.

She talked to host Peter Medlin about her 36 years raising hundreds of kids in her own home. They went into how much it’s changed as she’s gotten older, her focus on nature -- especially monarch butterflies -- and so much more.

Peter Medlin

Plenty of schools surveyed staff and parents over the past several months, asking about e-learning challenges and seeking suggestions going into the new COVID-affected school year.

Schools don’t as often ask the students themselves, especially younger kids. The West Aurora School District did ask its students, from Pre-K all the way through high school, how they felt about schools being closed.

Spencer Tritt

Many Illinois students are more than a week into remote learning, and parents are still finding new challenges and trying to get used to the new normal.

“We’ve just had a morning recess mishap. Did that land on your foot? Are your toe-sies okay?” One of Colleen Chavez’s children was crying. After a few seconds comforting them, she told them to run along and play with something safer. Only got a few minutes before it’s time to log on or school.

Illinois Child Care Bureau

Many school districts are delaying in-person instruction and starting the year remotely. That can present challenges for parents who work during the day and can’t be there to assist with their child’s virtual learning. 

That means many will have to seek out child care options, and those providers are advertising that they can not only provide outdoor activities and crafts, but also help with remote learning.

Spencer Tritt

As the pandemic began to surge, schools closed and most students switched to online learning almost overnight. Schools with less access to technology relied on paper packets, especially for elementary students.

It was more like crisis teaching, like building the plane as you’re flying it. That’s how Lindsay Zelly described sudden changeover. She’s the director of professional learning at the Illinois Digital Educators Alliance. They provide professional development and online resources to teachers.

Spencer Tritt

Many students are returning to class this month, some in person and some digitally.

Those in education wonder about the long-term academic and emotional impacts of COVID-19.

Schools are used to dealing with the “summer slide,” where students forget a bit of what they learned over summer vacation. But those losses will be more profound this year.

Peter Medlin

Illinois students have been e-learning for more than a month now. Reliable internet connectivity is still one of the major hurdles for many rural districts.

Alex Moore is the superintendent at Montmorency. They’re a K-8 district in Whiteside County with around 230 students.

“On a good day, I get four megabytes per second download speed, so I knew that was going to be an issue,” he said. “About half of our families probably have decent internet.”

Even that “good day” download speed doesn’t meet the FCC’s minimum recommendation for e-learning.

Spencer Tritt

It’s unclear what COVID-19’s full impact will be on colleges in the fall. Some are re-tooling schedules in case they need to move online.

And many students are changing their college plans because of the pandemic.

Cathy Cebulski is a counselor at DeKalb High School. She’s been communicating with her students over email since they moved to e-learning.

“If students were planning on going away to college thinking that Mom and Dad both had a job and they're both laid off right now, that certainly is a concern,” said Cebulski.

Spencer Tritt

During the dash to prepare students and families to learn from home, the rural Oregon Community School District issued what amounted to a disclaimer. 

 

John Zuber is an Oregon high school English teacher. He says the district had to say e-learning simply won’t be at the same level of education they get in the classroom. It’s just not possible.

 

“Which is a good admission, I think. It's like we can't replicate what we would normally do, but we're trying," he said.