Illinois COVID-19

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.

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.

Nearly 4,000 people who were tested for COVID-19 at some northern Illinois state-run testing sites are experiencing processing delays. Dr. Sandra Martell is the public health administrator for the Winnebago County Health Department. She said if you were tested between July 12-24 and have not received notification of your results, you may not need to test again.

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.

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.

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.”

Spencer Tritt

Illinois recently released guidelines for schools to return in-person this fall. Some concerned parents are choosing to homeschool their kids this year rather than send them back to in-person classes during COVID-19.

Brandi Poreda has homeschooled three of her kids over the last 20 years. She said the biggest advantage of homeschooling is flexibility.

Her first piece of advice to parents homeschooling for the first time? Don’t try to replicate the public school classroom experience.

NIU Athletics

College athletes are returning to campuses across the country.

Voluntary workouts are underway for football and basketball players at Northern Illinois University.  And the NCAA has approved plans to begin official preseason practices later this summer.

'Dear Class of 2020...' | Teachers' Lounge Podcast

Jun 26, 2020
Spencer Tritt

This is a special episode of the show we’re calling “Dear Class of 2020…”  The teachers are gone. This week it’s all about the students graduating after the strangest senior year ever. You’re going to hear four valedictorians give the speeches they would have given, in a normal year, to an auditorium full of their friends and family.

The Class of 2020 valedictorians are:

Xavior Hutsell of Roosevelt High School in Rockford

Nina Mitchell of DeKalb High School

Ashley Althaus of Amboy High School

And, finally, Tessa Harbecke or Sycamore High School

Spencer Tritt

The State guidelines that were announced Tuesday for schools to resume in-person classes this fall need more work. That’s according to one of Illinois’ biggest teachers unions.

The pandemic put schools across the country in a tough position. They know many don’t consider the quality of e-learning equal to that of in-person instruction. But, even with new in-person safety protocols, some parents say they aren’t going to feel comfortable sending their kids to school.

Northern Illinois University

Most major sports leagues are still postponed because of the pandemic. And the NCAA is still in the midst of approving plans to get college sports back in action for the fall.

But the prospect of campus capacity limits, playing without fans, and players testing positive for COVID-19, leaves much of the college sports world still up in the air.

Esports, on the other hand, have proved much more adept at migrating online. Nearly a million fans streamed the remotely-played League of Legends spring finals.

When COVID-19 closed campuses across the country, community colleges also had to quickly maneuver to online classes.

Eamon Newman is the assistant dean for online and flexible delivery at Waubonsee Community College.

He said the college was planning to increase the use of alternate instruction. And with in-person classes still uncertain, it’s also expanding flex learning options for students in the fall semester.

Contact tracing is kind of like being a COVID-19 detective. That’s what Kathy Cabai says. She’s a professor at College of DuPage and is coordinating its new online training program for the job.

Contact tracing involves calling people infected with COVID-19 to see who they’ve been in contact with to limit the spread of the virus. It also means reaching out to those who may have been exposed to people with COVID-19.

These are health care jobs and you work with public health departments. But Cabai says first and foremost they’re communication jobs.

Spencer Tritt

From Chicago to DeKalb to West Aurora, some school districts are temporarily stopping meal distribution because of Sunday night’s looting and vandalism. Those actions came after cities saw protests in response to the killing of George Floyd.

The West Aurora School District is suspending its program only for Monday and Tuesday.

With record numbers of workers filing for unemployment during the pandemic, the district has seen a rise in the need for meals for families.

The Many Ways To Graduate During A Pandemic

May 29, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has canceled milestones for countless people. Weddings have been pushed back, memorials modified for social distancing and some funerals made digital.

High school graduation is a milestone that may feel a little different for students after e-learning for their final months. In early May, the Illinois State Board of Education made a statement saying schools were not to have typical in-person ceremonies. The board also gave guidelines on how schools can still celebrate.

Marilyn Moltz

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of valedictorian speeches students may not get to give in person this year. It’s called “Dear Class of 2020...” If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

State and local leaders are making decisions every day about the COVID-19 pandemic that are met with both praise and criticism. WNIJ’s Peter Medlin has the first part of our series “The Hot Seat” talking to leaders, like the Winnebago County Sheriff, about the process behind those big decisions.

Recently, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled an executive order to keep businesses from opening before Illinois reached the next phase of reopening. Business owners could be charged with a misdemeanor for violating the stay-at-home order.

17th Judicial Circuit

The 17th Judicial Circuit  announced Thursday that  it will be reopening courts in Winnebago and Boone Counties June 1 and resuming a regular schedule.

In the announcement, Chief Judge Eugene Doherty advised anyone coming to the court as a juror or litigant of the changes in its procedures that will be in place due to the continued threat of COVID-19:

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of those valedictorian speeches. If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

Pixabay

In Illinois, public college and university students and their guardians will soon have a better idea of how much they’ve borrowed -- and an estimate of how much they’ll be paying back per month.

That’s thanks to a state pilot program. The letters relay information on federal, private and institutional loans.

Bobbi Smith is the interim director of financial aid at Western Illinois University.

Wikipedia Commons

Illinois residents have been flocking to state parks as the summer months approach. As of now, 60 state parks have partially reopened since May 1.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan says even though more people are visiting the parks -- sometimes for the first time ever -- the state has been a “model for reopening.”

Spencer Tritt

Last October, the State Board of Education showed nearly 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs and nearly 5,000 total education positions. 

 

Bob Sondgeroth is the regional superintendent for Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties. He says it’s likely the pandemic will worsen Illinois’ teacher shortage. 

 

“I honestly think that we're going to have some retirements that we didn't plan on,” he said. “They're going to decide it's not worth the risk.” 

 

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