remote 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

Steve Wilder has no idea what “normal” looks like in Sycamore. He started as superintendent for Sycamore schools in July 2020. He spent his spring frantically guiding his outgoing district through the first wave of the crisis while also trying to transition to his new position.

“There were times that I felt really helpless,” said Wilder. “Because those questions were coming and I didn't have the answers that people wanted that I wanted to be able to share with them.”

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

A year after COVID-19 shut down schools, DeKalb high schoolers are back in the building. And in just a few days, they’ll be back a full five days a week.

“Me and my friends had this joke until we got back -- spring break never ended,” said Abby Slater, she’s a freshman at DeKalb. As she mentioned, time moves differently during the pandemic -- especially for students who had their whole education experience thrown out the window and reassembled before it hit the ground last year.

Spencer Tritt

As students begin returning in-person, one of the biggest challenges they face beyond academics is COVID-19 trauma. Yasmina Sefiane is used to talking about the significant impact trauma can take on students and their learning. She’s the program director at the NIU Center for Child Welfare & Education.

She also helps run the Educational Access Project. They have advisors across every corner of Illinois helping break down the barriers youth in foster care face to succeed in school.

Spencer Tritt

A year since classes were canceled due to COVID-19, the DeKalb Public School District announced a return to full week in-person instruction. All grade levels will have the option beginning on March 30.

Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education reduced school social distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet. The move had a dramatic impact on the quest to return to in-person classes.

Spencer Tritt

More and more Illinois school districts are offering in-person options as COVID-19 positivity rates continue to drop. 70% of students are now in a hybrid learning format. But many parents are turning to their school districts to ask for more in-person time.

Spencer Tritt

The Biden Administration wants to reopen all schools within his first 100 days in office, but around half of all Illinois students are still learning remotely. DeKalb Public Schools is transitioning students to a partially in-person hybrid schedule for the first time since the pandemic began.

Spencer Tritt

Before the pandemic, Shelly Tranchita would walk around her packed, sweaty P.E. class shouting affirmations and helping students with their yoga poses. Now, for the first time during COVID-19, Sycamore High School is back in-person on a hybrid schedule. Her class looks a lot different now.

“The temperature today was 6 [degrees] and I have fans on in the indoor gyms that I'm in that don't have outside circulation. I wear two masks. I wear a microphone all day long so I can project my voice without yelling and spreading more aerosols, more germs,” she said.

Spencer Tritt

This school year, schools identified around 420,000 fewer homeless students than last year. That would normally be a hopeful sign, but not during the pandemic. Advocates say there aren’t fewer students experiencing homelessness. It’s just that schools can’t find them.

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.

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. 

 

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.

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.

Northern Illinois University

Universities across the state have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. But how do you learn acting, music or dance from home?

There’s no replacing the immediacy of live theatre. And there’s no replacing a live concert or recital.

But Alexander Gelman says it’s worth remembering that art’s greatest enemy can be a lack of limitations. He’s the head of Northern Illinois University’s School of Theatre & Dance.

Cabin Fever Breaks After Snow Days

Feb 5, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

Freezing temperatures last week closed countless businesses and schools in northern Illinois. For some, snow days meant working remotely. Students are now returning to class after some school districts closed their doors for safety.