District 220 allows e-learning option for days with bad weather
Barrington Area Unit District 220 will have the option of using electronic learning on days school is closed due to extreme cold, major snowstorms or other emergencies.
School board members Tuesday night voted 7-0 to approve an overall distance learning program that includes e-learning. Officials said the broad distance learning program won't require the use of a computer, tablet or other device for all assignments.
Superintendent Brian Harris reiterated that remote learning will not be automatic when difficult winter weather or other problems occur.
"As superintendent, I'll have two options on those days," Harris said. "One, whether or not to cancel school, which is always the most difficult. And No. 2, whether we do a distance learning day or not. There may be circumstances where we will not do that. And I've shared that example before."
Even if the option had been available when a major snowstorm hit on the first day of classes after Thanksgiving break last year, Harris said he might not have exercised it.
Under the program, teachers will post e-learning opportunities by 9 a.m. on an emergency day off from school starting this year. Students will have five school days to complete their classroom assignments.
District 220 board member Barry Altshuler said the program will give students enough time to complete their assignments.
"I just think we're building in enough of a buffer, that if you can save days at the end of the year by employing this (distance learning) a couple times during the year, during the winter, it's going to be a worthwhile effort," Altshuler said.
Prompted by a state law enacted in June, District 220 is among the school systems pursuing remote education plans.
While proponents say e-learning can eliminate the need to add days to the end of the scheduled school year, critics, including some teachers unions, contend instructors should be present for students' learning.
District 220 officials say the distance learning program was formed with input from the Barrington Education Association teachers union and the Barrington School District Employee Organization, which represents educational support professionals.
School board President Penny Kazmier said the process for the remote learning initiative began in August and included presentations and public comment opportunities.
The General Assembly's decision to allow schools to hold e-learning days followed a three-year, state-run test in Gurnee Elementary District 56, West Chicago Community High School District 94 and Franklin Park-based Leyden High School District 212.