Illinois students to begin remote learning Tuesday
Starting Tuesday, Elgin Area School District U-46's nearly 38,400 students are going back to school, virtually.
There will be no high-fives from teachers or students shuffling down hallways to get to classrooms. While schools across the suburbs and state remain closed due to COVID-19, their students will begin learning remotely through online classrooms Tuesday and continue until in-person instruction can resume, state education officials said Friday.
Remote learning days and the planning time required to make that happen will count as actual student attendance days and toward the school year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education's emergency rules.
During this time, schools may implement either an e-learning or remote learning day plan providing students with instruction and access to educators through whatever means possible, state officials said.
Technically, U-46 is not equipped to provide e-learning.
Yet, the state's second-largest school district will test a new distance learning plan created in collaboration with teachers. It has bridged the technological divide by utilizing personal Chromebooks and available portable devices to deliver instruction.
"It's really stressed us as a system," said Josh Carpenter, U-46 assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. "It's exciting for us to be able to learn in a different way and personalize learning. There will be bumps in the road. We will learn from our successes and also learn from the challenges that we are going to face."
The district previously issued roughly 26,000 one-to-one devices to students in fifth through 12th grades. Last week, officials pooled 5,800 communal devices from all school buildings and distributed them to families that needed them.
"We wanted to ensure every household has at least one device," Carpenter said.
U-46 also recently purchased a learning management system for teachers allowing them to provide remote instruction, resources and lessons for students. It also allows for video conferencing. Officials began training teachers Friday on how to set up their learning platforms.
Many teachers also have been using Google Classroom for instruction.
Teachers will be accessible to students between 9 and 11 a.m. and noon to 3 p.m. They will have ongoing interaction with students, but officials are still working through the logistics of providing live teaching.
"To the best of our ability, we have tried to create a learning day that is common across our district," Carpenter said. "We are trying to support our staff and students in moving to a new learning environment. This is new for everyone."
A state advisory group comprising teachers, students, paraprofessionals, related service personnel, principals, and district and regional superintendents recommended best practices for remote learning. They address instruction, grading, communication, social-emotional needs, content selection and delivery, family engagement, as well as specific guidance for different grade bands, English Learners, and students with disabilities.
To view the group's recommendations, visit isbe.net.