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More distance learning phasing in at Dist. U-46

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 has started its second phase of distance learning, or online learning, on Tuesday, March 31.
  The distance learning is expected to take place until schools are allowed to reopen after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s orders to shut them down through at least April 7 due to the coronavirus.
  Classes are still tentatively set to return Wednesday, April 8, but things remain uncertain as no standards have been given to the public of when the shutdown will be lifted ever since Pritzker’s first edict to close on March 13. The original shutdown order was through March 30 before an extension was placed on March 20.
  The first phase of distance learning took place during the first week of the shutdown which included just suggested educational activities, but the second phase will include teacher lesson plans along with attendance taking and grading.
  Superintendent Tony Sanders called distance learning “an entirely online approach to education that our team has developed over the past two weeks” in a statement on Saturday, March 28.
  “The way we learn, study and teach will look and feel different than our usual school days,” Sanders wrote. “Our 350 school buses will remain huddled in place on Shales Parkway. Our principals, teachers and staff members will be opening laptops rather than school doors and students will be logging on and entering portals rather than actual classrooms. I urge us all to remain patient with ourselves and each other as we navigate this new experience.”
  Lesson plans will be created by teachers who have had online professional development opportunities over the weekend and through Monday, March 30. Lessons will be taught through various platforms, like Google Classroom, that have been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, and lessons could include audio and video interaction between teachers and students.
  Parents had an opportunity to opt their children out of using the platforms by submitting a form prior to 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1. Teachers were expected to send communications by the first day of the second phase to parents and students to describe the lesson and assignment plans, and Sanders wrote that “practices will evolve as they learn what works best for their students.”
  Sanders wrote that teachers “may take attendance,” and a student absence should be reported by a parent via an online reporting tool before 10 a.m. each day.
  “Teachers will have the ability to modify attendance records from present to absent (or vice versa) at the end of the day based on whether a student has met the engagement criteria as defined,” Sanders wrote. He added that updates will come as grading standards are put in place.
  The district has already gone to one-to-one technology for students fifth grade and up, each receiving a Chromebook, while it has been issuing technology to students in fourth grade and younger as the distance learning continues.
  On Wednesday, March 25, Sanders wrote that around 2,600 Chromebooks were distributed at 20 elementary schools with plans to cover the remaining 20 elementary schools later that week. In the March 28 statement, he stated that an estimated 3,900 Chromebooks were purchased via and emergency order when the shutdown began.
  If families are experiencing hardware issues, the district is proving repair services by appointment only.
  “This service is not for personal devices and we ask that families start their troubleshooting with the directions and resources under our COVID site before seeking an appointment,” Sanders wrote.
  More information regarding distance learning can be found at u-46.org/learning.




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