Illinois schools to remain shut through the academic year

Schubert+Elementary+kindergarten+teacher+Mary+Carey+works+in+her+virtual+classroom+at+her+home+in+Chicago.+All+e-learning+will+continue+through+the+academic+year.

Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune

Schubert Elementary kindergarten teacher Mary Carey works in her virtual classroom at her home in Chicago. All e-learning will continue through the academic year.

Sneha Dey, City Editor

Gov. J.B. Pritzker suspended in-person instruction across Illinois schools through the remainder of the academic year, altering education plans for the state’s two million students.

“My decisions are hard ones, but they will follow the science,” Pritzker said at Friday’s press conference. “Science says our students cannot go back to their normal routine.”

As of Friday afternoon, officials reported 27,575 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and 213 cases in Evanston. Pritzker said in-person instruction offered a “nearly limitless opportunity” to spread the novel coronavirus.“

Private and public schools across the state have shuttered school buildings since March 17. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 schools have already implemented online learning curriculums.

The governor acknowledged Friday the challenges of remote learning that come with his decision, especially for families that lack access to computers and the internet. Pritzker encouraged districts to work with local families on specific needs. Dallas City, for example, has delivered meals and paper packets of instructional materials to students.

For families with limited or no access to technology, D65 has distributed hundreds of laptops and hotspots. Schools officials are also providing free cold breakfasts and lunches for children aged 1 to 18.

In a statement to the D65 community, co-interim superintendents Phil Ehrhardt and Heidi Wennstrom emphasized staying connected and providing flexibility to parents and educators.

“Some may be doing well, have stability in their homes, and are looking for deeper levels of engagement where others are experiencing real hardship and just trying to get by,” wrote Ehrhardt and Wennstrom. “Our plan must address these varying needs in order to best meet our educators and families where they are.”

D65 has developed a Remote Learning Guidance document. ETHS has provided less extensive guidance, but has suggested more information will be released soon, based on the recommendations from the Illinois State Board of Education.

The governor has altered high school senior graduation requirements and canceled all standardized testing for the academic year. He also recommended Friday that districts grade on the basis of feedback.

Pritzker joins 27 states and three U.S. territories that have either recommended or ordered schools to not re-open.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers union praised Pritzker for his decision and his efforts to fight COVID-19.

“Under these difficult circumstances and with limited resources, educators have been doing what they love – teaching and engaging our children remotely while adjusting to the new normal,” said Dan Montgomery, IFT president.

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Twitter: @snehadey_

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