State encouraging remote education plans in latest coronavirus guidance to schools

  • Maine Township High School District 207 officials were pursuing an e-learning policy before the spread of COVID-19, spokesman Brett Clark said, and now plan to speed them up.

      Maine Township High School District 207 officials were pursuing an e-learning policy before the spread of COVID-19, spokesman Brett Clark said, and now plan to speed them up. Mark Welsh@dailyherald.com, 2018

  • State education officials are encouraging school districts to have electronic learning programs for students to continue their studies in the event classes were to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. E-learning days are possible for students who receive school-issued computers, such as this child Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300.

      State education officials are encouraging school districts to have electronic learning programs for students to continue their studies in the event classes were to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. E-learning days are possible for students who receive school-issued computers, such as this child Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 
Updated 3/12/2020 11:42 AM
This story has been updated to include a photo of Maine West High School in Des Plaines. A previous photo showed a different school.

State education officials are encouraging school districts to have electronic learning programs for students to continue their studies in the event classes were to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At systems unable to offer e-learning because not all students are equipped with school-issued technology or have guaranteed home internet access, such as Palatine Elementary District 15, the state suggests a distance learning program. Student use of a computer, tablet or other device for all assignments is not necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

District 15 Superintendent Laurie Heinz said at a board meeting Wednesday night that administrators are working on a remote learning program that'll be available if schools were to close for an extended period. She noted Illinois has waived the typical requirements for electronic and distance learning programs, such as a public hearing and school board approval, "because we are where we are in the state."

"So, we're going to be doing more of a distance learning plan where there may be a combination of digital, if you can access, or paper tasks," Heinz said. "That's part of the work that I have roughed out, and that the principals and assistant principals and I will continue to work on (Thursday)."

She added the plan will be ready to present for emergency approval Friday from the northern Cook County regional office of education in Des Plaines.

Illinois State Board of Education officials Tuesday issued updated coronavirus guidance encouraging all districts to immediately begin developing electronic or remote learning plans in preparation for potential school closures.

Park Ridge-based Maine Township High School District 207 officials were pursuing an e-learning policy before the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the latest coronavirus, spokesman Brett Clark said.

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Now, District 207 plans to move faster than originally anticipated on the e-learning proposal, according to a letter sent to parents Wednesday.

"We were already on track to approve an e-learning plan at our April board of education meeting, but the state is allowing schools to fast-track that process in order to meet any needs that may arise sooner," the letter states. "In the event of a prolonged school closure, we would first use our five built-in emergency days before beginning e-learning (virtual) instruction. We have already met with all staff, and teachers are talking to students now about how this would work for each class."

Remote education plans without required computer use could include take-home packets or other methods "to keep students thinking about learning," according to the state board of education's latest coronavirus guidance.

Under a law effective since June, school districts statewide can use snow and other emergency days for e-learning. The idea is for students to continue their studies in an online classroom.

District 207 already has what's necessary for e-learning, such as school-issued devices for all students and mobile hot spots for those without home Wi-Fi access, Clark said. The state requires appropriate learning opportunities for English learners and students with disabilities, plus access for children without technology at home.

Several suburban school systems already have e-learning programs. They include Gurnee Elementary District 56, West Chicago Community High School District 94, Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Barrington Area Unit District 220, Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 and Stevenson High School District 125 in Lincolnshire.

Two District 300 buildings in Carpentersville -- Dundee-Crown High School and Perry Elementary School -- will be closed through Sunday due to a potential case of coronavirus exposure. Officials said that depending on whether existing makeup dates work, the district could consider using a combination of e-learning and additional school days.

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