Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Illinois schools will not hold any in-person classes for the rest of the academic year.
The governor said the decision reached by his administration and the state school board was a hard one. But, he told reporters during a daily press briefing he is confident that schools will expand remote learning opportunities for students.
“Over the last month, Illinois schools have stepped up, and faced the many challenges of COVID-19 with generosity, and creativity and a resolute focus on caring for students, and parents and communities,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker previously ordered all school districts to close schools on March 17. The order was extended once before.
Students will continue learning remotely, and all standardized tests have been canceled. Meanwhile, high school seniors will be able to graduate without the usual consumer education course and physical education assessment.
“To our high school seniors, I know you’re feeling sad about missing the rituals of senior prom, senior night, senior pranks, and graduation,” Pritzker said. “But you will be okay, and you will talk about this for the rest of your lives.”
ISBE Secures Funding To Help Families Cope And Transition To Online Learning
Illinois will receive $569 million in federal funding for PreK-12 school as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education are encouraging districts to use the money to enhance remote learning for teachers and students, and to assist schools in continuing to provide meals to children.
Donna Leak, Superintendent of District 168 in Sauk Village, said students need ways to cope with the unknown.
“Our social workers and our counselors are available to students and families to reach for assistance at any time,” Leak said. “We have over 400 students participating in a virtual lunch, just to talk about what's going on.”
All school districts in Illinois have developed plans to ensure all students have access to their teachers during Remote Learning Days. An advisory group made up of teachers, superintendents, and teachers was formed to develop comprehensive Remote Learning Recommendations for all grade levels. The recommendations are available in English, Spanish, Polish, and Arabic, and can be found here.
ISBE is also planning to issue recommendations to schools to address learning loss and student’s social-emotional needs for when they return to school. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala said she will continue to focus on student’s social and emotional skills even when the crisis is over.
“This pandemic has altered the fabric of how we teach, how we learn, and how we connect,” Ayala said. “But it has not shaken the core of what our schools do, and that is to take care of Illinois children.”
Each public school district will receive funding proportional to the number of low income students.
Pritzker To Waive Student Teacher Requirements
In the midst of Friday’s closure announcement, Gov. Pritzker also unveiled a plan aimed at helping future teachers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor said he will issue an Executive Order waiving both the edTPA and student teaching requirements for educators in training who have otherwise completed other licensing duties. Pritzker said the idea is to give student teachers and school districts flexibility.
“The plan is to ensure that this situation does not impact schools ability to hire the qualified teachers they need when students come back,” the governor said.
The edTPA is a performance-based assessment used by some states to measure and support the skills and knowledge that teachers will need in the classroom.
Its suspension is an emergency measure only. It’s unclear if, and when that requirement and others will be reinstated.