'We're just not ready yet': Stevenson officials answer questions on remote learning plan
An online video seminar about a Lake County high school's plan to resume remote learning this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic drew more than 2,200 audience members -- and a lot of questions -- Tuesday night.
The virtual discussion came a day after Stevenson High School officials announced the Lincolnshire campus would essentially remain off limits to the school's nearly 4,400 students when the 2020-21 term begins Aug. 17 -- likely for the entire first semester.
Principal Troy Gobble and Superintendent Eric Twadell read questions that had been sent to administrators electronically ahead of and during the seminar.
One person reportedly asked if the school will transition to on-campus education if COVID-19 crisis eases. Twadell said yes but noted that "we're just not ready yet."
Several people reportedly asked if athletics will be canceled. That decision lies with the Illinois High School Association, Gobble said, and it hasn't yet been made. Others reportedly asked about whether theater productions would be staged. Officials said they hope that'll be possible.
One person reportedly asked if students will be required to keep their iPads' cameras on during lessons and do work in appropriate learning spaces.
"That is certainly our expectation," Gobble said.
Tuesday's chat started with a roughly 90-minute presentation by Twadell, Gobble and other administrators about the educational options they considered, the factors that led to choosing remote learning and a description of how this round of remote learning will work. It was a repeat performance of the presentation they gave to the school board Monday night.
Under the plan, live instruction will occur five days a week in every class via students' iPad computer tablets. Homework, testing and grading will mirror expectations of traditional classroom instruction, which wasn't the case at many schools that instituted remote learning in the spring.
Academic assistance and other services will be offered through video conferencing.
Small groups of students will be allowed on campus for special-education programs, sports, clubs and some services. Some teachers will be allowed to lead remote lessons from their classrooms, but most employees will be encouraged to work from home.
By sticking with remote learning, Stevenson is bucking the trend developing at many other schools across the suburbs. Administrators at Carmel Catholic High in Mundelein, Libertyville High, Vernon Hills High and Mundelein High are among those who have either decided to have a mix of in-person and remote schooling or are leaning toward such a plan.
Twadell said he expects administrators at other schools will follow Stevenson's lead -- even if they're planning to start the year with some on-campus classes at this point. The odds of schools expanding to all on-campus classes by Oct. 1 are slim, he said.
"We see that as highly unlikely," Twadell said. "The virus is getting worse, not better."