Students adjusting to new learning routine

Students adjusting to new learning routine

By: :DANIEL WINNINGHAM

Enquirer~Democrat managing editor

As the coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc across the nation, the response locally has been one that appears to be evolving daily, if not hourly.

With Gov. Pritzker’s announcement to close schools throughout the state through March 30, local school districts were taking steps to help students continue improving, adjusting to either an e-learning or remote learning option.

A restart date has not been determined, and it’s likely schools will remain closed the entire month of April.

The shelther in place executive order by Pritzker goes through April 7, though that deadline will likely be changed.

It’s early April now, and there hasn’t been an official announcement from the state on whether or not the social distancing guidelines will be lifted, though the President extended them through April 30 earlier in the week.

Not every teacher is making new assignments each day, Carlinville Community Unit School District No. 1 superintendent Becky Schuchman said.

“That depends on grade level,” Schuchman said. “Many of the younger kids are getting more weekly assignments, but the older students are getting new assignments at least three days a week and teachers are available to communicate with students everyday from 8:30-3:30.”

Grades will not be posted as they typically have in the past, according to Schuchman.

“At this time, grades are not being posted in the traditional manner,” she said. “Teachers are grading work and the work is being monitored to determine student progress and understanding.  However, classes that are for college credit, the assignments and grades are required according to the Board of Higher Education rules.”

For those without a reliable internet connection, the district is working to address these concerns.

“A large percentage of our students do have access to the internet,” Schuchman said. “We surveyed families and students prior to the closure to identify those that do not. In those cases, hard copies are provided to the students and are delivered to the student as needed.  In addition, we have expanded some of the Internet access around our buildings and are also working on providing some hotspots based on the information gathered prior to the closure.

Asked if she envisions the rest of the school year to be cancelled, Schuchman is optimistic that won’t be the case.

“I hope not,” Schuchman said. “Staff and administration miss seeing and being able to interact with students in the buildings. We have a lot of material to cover and want our students to have opportunities and activities that being in session provides. All we can do is wait and see how the next few weeks go with regards to the health emergency.  People need to focus on the health and wellness of their families. Schools will open when it is safe to do so.

When the announcement to close schools first was handed down, e-learning schedules were announced and the school district made an effort to have food available for students at various pick-up locations.

Laura and Nathan Starr are the parents of five children. Adjusting to learning away from school has been something the four oldest kids have been working on since school closed.

E-learning has been taking place Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Evan (sixth grade) and Luke (fourth grade have been able to complete assignments and turn in school work daily.

“They are used to doing a lot of the work on the computer and they can do it themselves,” Laura Starr said. “

Eila (first grade) and Myer (kindergarten) have been working through packets of papers that are not turned in daily.

Myer (kindergarten) often gets one-on-one help during school

In addition to the worksheets, they are also given different web sites to interact with.

“That requires a little more assistance,” Laura said.

The school district  has offered all students a ChromeBook to enhance learning.

When not working through the e-learning, the Starr children have been spending time outdoors playing soccer and baseball, as well as jumping on their trampoline.

“They are doing well, but they are ready to see their friends,” Starr said.

L. Starr sets aside time for the kids to read daily, though she doesn’t think they are actively choose to read more on their own.

L. Starr has picked up food twice. The school district has begun delivery as well.

“They’re allowing non-school age kids to get the food, too,” Starr said.

The food choices include cereal bars for breakfast, along with one or two cartons of milk for each child; a ham and cheese sandwich with an apple or orange, chips and carrot sticks. Starr has had food picked up from Carlinville Intermediate School, though volunteers have begun dropping off food for those unable to get to the pick up spots.

Bethanie Ogden took her kids on a walk at the Square March 26. Two of her four children are in school.

“We try to play outside and find fun activities to do out there, and taking walks whenever the weather is nice,” Ogden said.

With her last week were Sydney (8, second grade), Riley (5, pre-kindergarten), Casey (3) and Cassidy (1).

“The teachers contact us every day that we have e-learning,” she said.

The school work has been taking the students about an hour per day, she said.

Despite the governor’s “shelter-in-place” executive order, Bethanie’s husband is still employed, as his work is classified as “essential.” He serves as a carpenter in the Springfield area.

Ogden was initially surprised at the decision to close schools, but that perspective has changed.

“I was a little shocked at first but also a little happy with the decision to keep the children home,” she said. “I really don’t think they’ll end up returning back (to school).”

She is optimistic the social distancing measures will limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“As long as everybody keeps doing their part, it’ll be good,” she said.

Ogden wasn’t keeping her children away from the constant coronavirus news updates, but admitted it is something both she and her husband think about.

“We haven’t really let the kids know much about it,” she said.

When the social distancing guidelines are loosened, CHS Principal Drew wants to keep as many activities intact as possible.

“We have discussed options depending on the length of the COVID-19 orders from the Governor Pritzker,” Drew said. “My ultimate goal would be to provide our students with as many normal activities as possible including the musical, prom and graduation.”

To reach Daniel Winningham and the editorial department, please e-mail editorial @enquirerdemocrat.com.