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'Act of God' days are over; school districts continue e-learning through April 7 with uncertain future

DeKALB — DeKalb County schools have received some of the guidance they’ve been looking for, but plenty of questions remain with COVID-19’s full impact in question.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala declared that Remote Learning Days will begin Tuesday, March 31, allowing schools to put in place E-Learning plans or a Remote Learning Day plan. The remote-learning days had previously been declared “Act of God” days by Gov. JB Pritkzer, meaning districts were not allowed to require students login each morning to do lessons. The ‘Act of God’ days end Monday, however, and the Illinois State Board of Education wants days to count beginning Tuesday.

DeKalb District 428 superintendent Jamie Craven posted a statement to the District’s Facebook page about schools staying closed and providing some updates, but was not immediately available for further comment.

” E-learning will resume (Monday) March 30 and continue through April 7 pending further “stay at home” directives from Governor Pritzker,” Craven said in the statement. “Please note that on Friday, April 3rd we will be holding a Teacher Institute/Planning Day. We will not be holding E-learning classes on this day.”

President Donald Trump’s declaration of an extended 30-day national social distancing guidelines through April 30 could lead to Pritzker endorsing the policy for the state. Governors ultimately have the power to issue edicts on opening or closing the state. Under the Illinois State Board of Education’s recommendation, grades of ‘pass’ or ‘incomplete’ will be handed out, with the statement issuing guidance for educators.

The statement reads: “The Remote Learning Recommendations strongly encourage that school districts’ local grading policies during Remote Learning Days embrace the principle of “no educational harm to any child” and that school districts adopt grading models of pass or incomplete.”

Some uncertainty remains about the grading policy despite the state’s guidance.

The Remote Learning Recommendations, as referenced in the ISBE’s news release, outline how grading should be constituted.

“Grading should focus on the continuation of learning and prioritize the connectedness and care for students and staff,” the ISBE statement reads. “All students should have the opportunity to redo, make up, or try again to complete, show progress, or attempt to complete work assigned prior to the remote learning period in that time frame.”

According to the ISBE, the focus for continual education of children should also highlight “keeping children emotionally and physically safe, fed, and engaged in learning should be our first priority during this unprecedented time.”

Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order Friday (Executive Order 2020-15) suspends spring tests such as state assessments for spring 2020, including the Constitution exam. Pritzker’s action also ends assessment activity statewide for the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, Illinois Science Assessment, SAT, and Dynamic Learning Maps-Alternate Assessment for the 2019-20 school year.

In his letter to DeKalb schools, Craven also addressed the “wait-and-see” approach that District 428 is taking toward a number of items, including the resumption of athletics and extracurricular activities, exams, how final grades will be tallied and more.

“There have been many questions regarding what lies beyond our current April 7 “stay at home” order,” Craven said. “Rescheduling of district activities and special events, spring sport seasons, AP Exams and end of year assessments, how final grades will be calculated and posted, and other end of year events. At this time we really can’t speculate on what those answers will be. Like all other schools, we are in a ‘wait-and-see mode’.”

Hiawatha District 426 superintendent Jared Poynter referenced the district’s Learning Outside of the Hawks Nest plan, saying that the Remote Learning Plan for the district will be posted on the district’s website “in the near future.”

“We are utilizing the remote learning planning days this week as our staff [continues] to adjust to remote teaching through a variety of methods,” Poynter said. “We are in the midst of trying to support our families with technology needs as well. This continues to be a fluid and ever-evolving situation and we are adapting as we go.”

Poynter noted that delivering two meals a day through mobile pick-up and delivery will continue to be a priority for the district. The superintendent said that town hall conference calls with ISBE have been helpful.

“The state has given us guidance that calendar amendments are not a priority at this time,” Poynter said. “Having the guidance and definitions of ‘Remote Learning’ is also helpful for future instructional planning. These are unprecedented times and everything remains fluid.”

Poynter did add that more clarity could be helpful for long-term planning.

“Knowing from the State the plan for a continuation of the mandated closure past April 7th would be helpful with future instructional planning with more certainty.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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