How Local Schools Are Meeting ISBE's Requirements To Finish The Year

Apr 15, 2020

Students across Illinois are adjusting to remote learning because of the state wide school closure from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools across the country go on spring break during March and April and then come back to their normal routines.

However, in 2020 things are a little different.

The COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country.  

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s “Stay at Home” order forced schools to close until further notice.

The Illinois State Board of Education recommended all schools switch from “Act of God Days” to “Remote Learning Days”.

Schools across Illinois started sending out enrichment packets to students before this transition.  

West Frankfort School Superintendent Matt Donkin says the new material will be a little more focused.

“Now as we move to remote learning days, we tried to be a little more intentional about what could be covered in classes.”

Donkin says everyone’s daily routine has been disrupted and shuffled around. But they’re still trying to give their students the same care as before.

“Nothing can replace the person to person contact in a classroom and I think you’re seeing this now, as our concerns about the whole child and how they’re doing socially, emotionally, educationally, academically, all those things happen when you have a student in class, this is the best substitute that we can come up with right now."

Cobden High School Science Teacher Holly Hurt says they too are using any means they can to fulfil the State Board’s requirements to finish the school year.

“I feel that all the teachers in our district are going far and beyond with the resources that we have and we do have great resources to fulfil the need of our students.”

Hurt says, without the benefit of having everyone in the classroom, teachers have had to be a little creative.

“Simple experiments like working with refraction and reflection, echo’s, sound waves with things they already have at home using material they can find in the kitchen or bathroom like mirrors and cups, pencils and paper clips and things like that, that would be easy for them and not stressful but something that would be enjoyable for them and inquiry based, so they’re still getting some A-Ha monuments.”

Matt Donkin says his district, like many others, is having to weigh all the factors that keep students from completing their work through digital and non-digital means.

“Everything online we’re printing on the packets, I mean we all know how expensive ink is and paper and for most people at home they don’t expect to have that many of those supplies on hand, so it’s just one more thing you don’t think of until you’re in a situation like this.” 

Donkin says the State Board also recommended that schools also change the way they grade students from “pass or fail” to “pass or incomplete.”’

“The guide lines that we saw are we shouldn’t do harm, so we are looking at how we can help students maintain the skills and then potentially improve their grade, we had just came into our fourth quarter, so for us we have our third quarter grades and then we are looking for the materials to be completed and if students have complete everything they have a chance, an opportunity to move their semester grade up one from where it is.” 

Holly Hurt says, like others across the state, teachers in her district are doing everything they can to support their students.

“Right now, its pass or incomplete, so the student isn’t harmed if they’re not getting their assignments completed, but they are getting feedback if assignments are turned in teachers can give them feedback and so their grade will progress, they will see forward movement in their grade.”

But she says nothing can replace missing yearly traditions.

"I know that Seniors would like to walk through graduation, I know that prom would like to take place, those are some big ones that I hear students are sort of sad about missing and I can feel for them and those are some big milestones for them in their life.”

She’s hoping the Junior class this year won’t face the possibility of virtual Senior memories in 2021.