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New U-46 actions cited, report first virus case


By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 has reported the first case of a student contracting COVID-19 while also announcing an extension to how long schools will remained closed as the reaction continues over the coronavirus.
  U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders has released messages nearly daily to provide updates. He reported on Thursday, March 19 that the Cook County Department of Health informed the district that a student from Bartlett’s Independence Center for Early Learning had tested positive for COVID-19.
  Sanders, who legally cannot identify the student, wrote that the student is in isolation.
  Originally, Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all schools, public and private, to close down with a date for returning to class on Tuesday, March 31, but on Friday, March 20 he ordered a shelter-in place for state residents which extended the length of school closures. School is now expected to start up again on Wednesday, April 8.
  The previous day, Sanders noted that Chicago Public Schools have already announced remaining closed through April 20 but U-46 still planned on returning on March 31. The next day, Sanders said the district will follow Pritzker’s new edict.
  “We join state officials in all efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in the most robust manner possible,” Sanders said.
  U-46 implemented the first phase of distance, or online, learning which took place over three days last week which Sanders wrote included “general and suggested learning activities that support student engagement in learning, not a continuation of where learning left off last week.” This week is spring break in the district.
  The second phase of distance learning is expected to start on March 31, Sanders wrote in a Sunday, March 22 message.
  Sanders wrote that the Illinois State Board of Education does have guidelines which were written for normal emergency days, like snow days, and “the guidance provided does not call for virtual classroom attendance or grades. If the state guidance should change, we will also provide that direction to our community in a timely manner.”
  Expectations and resources for distance learning will be provided prior to the next phase, according to Sanders, and teachers are expected to provide specifics on plans by 9 a.m. each day. Further information will be provided on the district’s webpage.
  The district plans to provide taxpayer funded Chromebooks to qualifying families whose students were not issued them at the start of the school year, specifically fourth grade and younger. The district will distribute them this week at various locations and with staggered timeframes by grade levels.
  U-46 has also included information on how to receive free internet access provided by several providers.
  “This is a difficult time but our school community stands ready to show students they can be learners anytime, anywhere,” Sanders wrote. “Our goal is for our Distance Learning Plan to move our curriculum forward each day and inspire our bright students to continue to inquire, discover, innovate and learn during this time when we are away from each other.”
  Sanders also reported that the district provided 76,000 taxpayer funded meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 25,000 snacks to students over the first week of shutdowns. He said: “We will continue to distribute food as long as we can.”

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