Education

Victoria Lunacek

The majority of Illinois students are still learning remotely so there hasn’t been much need for school buses. Unfortunately, that means in many school districts there has been no need for bus drivers either.

Ladel Cass is a northern Illinois general manager at busing provider First Student.

He oversees 10 districts and says only around 30% are driving their normal routes right now.

And for the ones that are picking up and dropping off students as usual, they’ve had to make some major changes.

Brett Callow of Emsisoft

In April, Illinois Valley Community College’s servers shut down. It happened soon after COVID-19 closed down the campus and shifted classes online. Hackers locked the college out of its own networks. That caused its website and email system to crash. 

In the directory where files should be, the hackers left a message demanding cash for ransom.  

Spencer Tritt

We’ve got a special episode this week. Remember a few months back when we heard from those valedictorians about what it was like graduating in the strangest senior year ever? And remember when we heard from some parent surveys about the challenges of learning from home a few episodes ago?

Well, today we’re hearing from the kids just starting their school journey: elementary schoolers from pre-K to 5th grade in the West Aurora School District.

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.

Peter Medlin

Many school districts surveyed staff and parents over the summer. They highlighted challenges in the spring. Several schools asked the students themselves about what they faced and what to change as classes resume. 

 

A growing number of northern Illinois school districts have pushed their in-person start dates back and are beginning the school year online. 

 

Whether it’s the global pandemic or social unrest, nearly everyone has experienced some trauma in 2020.

It’s hard to grasp the long-term mental health implications of COVID-19. But many Americans have already seen their mental health suffer during the pandemic.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge episode we have Molly Lilja, principal at Manchester Elementary School in Poplar Grove.

She talked to host Peter Medlin about everything from the challenges of preparing for the school year during COVID, like putting up thousands of dollars’ worth of plexiglass dividers or having some students eat lunch in the library. They also chat about teaching online, what that was like in the spring and how the fall could be different.

Near the end, they also touch on Molly’s passion for playing a certain extreme sport!

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

It’s feared COVID-19 will make the current lack of teachers in Illinois even worse. That’s because some older and at-risk teachers are hesitant to come back to school during the pandemic.

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.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, host Peter Medlin talks with Northern Illinois University’s Dr. Lara Crowley. She’s the chair of the English department at NIU.

They cover how her department is making the transition online this fall, her work teaching and learning about Shakespeare in England, and the thrill of discovering 500-year-old poems!

Near the end they also talk a little bit about her kids getting into Harry Potter for the first time during the pandemic. So, indulge them as they geek out on that for a few minutes. Shout-out to the Ravenclaws.

Illinois Board of Higher Education

Black and Latinx college students in Illinois aren’t as successful as their white peers. That’s according to a new state report.

Ginger Ostro is the executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Her message on the results of the equity report was clear.

“In nearly every measure, we are failing our African American students,” she said

The report says there are significant disparities in everything from enrollment, retention and completion to post-college earnings.

Spencer Tritt

Only weeks from the first day of school, some districts are reversing course and choosing not to have any in-person instruction right away.

Several teachers’ unions are calling on their schools to start the year virtually. Educators in Elmhurst are opposing their district’s back-to-school plan.

Max Schoenberg is the president of the Elmhurst Teachers’ Council. He says Elmhurst District 205’s plan would bring hundreds of students back into its buildings.

Wikipedia Commons

Randall Jeffay was one of the millions of Americans laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He needed work, but he’s also at high-risk. 

“I’m 61 years old,” he said. “I’m actually a renal transplant recipient, so I have a suppressed immune system.” 

Going out in public or to an office was out of the question. But then he stumbled onto an article about Illinois community colleges offering courses to become a contact tracer from home.

Peter Medlin

Rockford Public Schools just became the latest district to release a plan for reopening.

No matter the grade level, parents can choose full-time remote learning.

But in-person will look different depending on a student’s age.

The elementary school option will be all day, five days a week.

Heidi Dettman is the executive director of academics.

“The biggest reason is because of how critical their time with their teachers is at this developmental stage,” said Dettman.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

In Rockford, a parade of cars filled the streets for a demonstration against schools reopening during the pandemic. Quetzia Ramirez is a parent liaison at Jefferson High School and her sign read, "25+ Students In One Classroom Cannot Social Distance."

The car parade began at 10:00 a.m. at Rock Valley College and included upwards of 50 cars. The cars were covered in signs and writing that expressed concern with schools reopening in the fall. Ramirez said that’s why she joined the car parade in the first place. 

 

 

Public Health Educator Weighs In On School Reopening

Jul 24, 2020
Spencer Tritt

The Illinois Federation of Teachers recently urged higher-ed and K-12 schools to start their semesters completely online. Many schools are releasing reopening protocols to return partially in-person during the pandemic.

Beth Squires is a professor at Northern Illinois University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

She said, to open in-person, schools must first be able to guarantee that students wear a mask, keep at least six feet apart and wash their hands regularly.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, host Peter Medlin sat down digitally with Ayla Peczkowski. She taught English & Special Ed at the Roosevelt Community Education Center in Rockford. Now she’s going to be in an administrative role at East High School, also in Rockford.

They talked about Ayla’s mixed feelings about schools reopening, teaching her students about news literacy during the pandemic and much more.

This episode goes in depth on what goes into a reopening plan. And there’s a story highlighting the struggles international students have faced during COVID-19.

Spencer Tritt

It’s just less than a month before the first day of school, and DeKalb is releasing their plans to reopen amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Students returning will see a different kind of classroom from what they left in March when schools shut down.

Schools are enforcing health and safety guidelines to try and limit the spread of coronavirus. Students will be required to wear masks. Classrooms will be reoriented to account for social distancing.

DeKalb’s plan uses a hybrid in-person and online format.

pikrepo.com

The global pandemic has fueled a rise in misinformation circulating on social media.

Since the early days of COVID-19, Facebook and other platforms have been full of memes and posts challenging testing results and even alluding that the whole virus story is a conspiracy.

Peter Adams is with the News Literacy Project. They’ve created tools for students to evaluate news stories.

He says the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic, where new data is being released constantly, has created an atmosphere where misinformation can easily spread.

Meet The Candidates For RVC President

Jul 17, 2020
provided by Rock Valley College

Rock Valley College announced the two finalists for the position of its president.

The two finalists are Ms. Amy King and Dr. Howard Spearman.

King most recently served as the central region group president for DeVry University, overseeing 12 campuses and serving 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Northern Illinois University and her Master's degree from Benedictine University.

Spencer Tritt

School districts across Illinois are starting to release reopening plans for this fall.

Many parents are uncomfortable with their kids going back to school during the pandemic. They worry if social distancing is possible and if younger students will struggle to wear a mask all day. But not all.

Of the seven people in Renee Olson’s house, nearly all of them have had COVID-19. After quarantining inside for weeks, she still has a cough but said she feels about 95% back to normal.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement had announced that international students must take some of their classes in-person. If not, they could be deported from the United States.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

 

Rockford University announced a new scholarship this week aimed at Black students interested in pursuing business.

 

Between Rockford University and the Puri Foundation, twelve Black students per year will be able to pursue a business degree and graduate with zero debt. That’s thanks to a new scholarship, named after Rockford’s first Black mayor, Charles Box.

 

On this week's episode, we examine the economic blow of students leaving college towns and the health risks associated with their planned return.  

On a new Teachers’ Lounge podcast, host Peter Medlin had a long chat with Huntley Middle School Principal Amonaquenette Parker.

Parker talked about the big lessons she learned about education during the pandemic and her perspective as a Black educator and mother as the country has started having more conversations about racial inequality and police brutality.

The conversation covered a lot of ground, so they also talked about when Parker’s mom was her boss for a few years and her love of cheesy romance novels.

niu.edu

As COVID-19 started shutting down international travel in March, students from Northern Illinois University studying abroad had to be rushed back home.

Anne Seitzinger said she knows it was devastating for them. She’s the director of the study abroad office at NIU.  

Months later, her staff is still helping them deal with the consequences of the abrupt change in plans.

“They're trying to get refunds for the students, and most of them have been able to do that,” she said. “And the ones that haven't been able to tell us about refunds yet, it's sounding positive.”

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