The General Assembly is back in session tomorrow in Springfield. This is likely to be a whirlwind three-day session covering a very barebones legislative agenda compared to a normal spring. (Politico shared this list of bills/topics on Tuesday.)
And, unfortunately, other than the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021, it's likely that not that much directly relevant for K-12 schools will be tackled.
Public schools are playing a vital role in helping families through the current crisis and in the recovery period to come. The pandemic and school closures have made it clearer than ever that public schools are the center of our communities and our children’s education.Read more
Forty-three states, including Illinois, have closed K-12 schools for the remainder of the year. Mass closures and a sudden switch to crisis schooling from a distance have prompted reflections on the crucial role of schools for children and communities. It’s also prompted speculation about what changes might take place longer term as a result of the closings and the pandemic.
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With over two million K-12 students' public schools closed due to COVID-19, there are a number of ways in which families across Illinois are being impacted by the pandemic. We’d like to highlight a few and share an action step you might want to take.Read more
With the mass school closures due to COVID-19, there has been a sudden shift to crisis schooling via remote learning, and in the wake of this existing student data privacy concerns about education technology have ballooned.
Unfortunately, in many cases, parents’ need and desire to protect their children’s privacy has been put in direct conflict with how schools are attempting to provide a substitute for education away from the physical classroom.Read more
As families across Illinois cope with adapting to life and learning during the Covid-19 epidemic, we were contacted by a group of parents and community members in Waukegan who are going through a particularly difficult struggle with their district.Read more
“The unprecedented shutdown of public and private schools in dozens of states last week has illuminated one easily forgotten truism about schools: They are an absolute necessity for the functioning of civic culture, and even more fundamentally than that, daily life.
Schools are the centers of communities. They provide indispensible student-welfare services, like free meals, health care, and even dentistry. They care for children while parents work. And all those services do much to check the effects of America’s economically stratified systems of employment and health care on young students.” --When Schools Shut Down, We All Lose Education Week March 20, 2020.
Schools in Illinois are closed through March 31st in hopes of slowing the COVID-19 pandemic via social distancing. And it’s likely that they’ll need to be closed for much longer.
The IL General Assembly has cancelled session this week, and in light of the major societal disruption ahead, our legislative advocacy in coming months will likely focus on emergency measures to support public school families. Sign up for alerts and updates from us here.
One initial quick thing we can do is to push the federal government cancel mandated annual testing; use this letter-writing campaign from the Network for Public Education to urge the US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to do just that.
Here's a (starter) list of resources for families during this time. Suggestions/additions/questions are very much welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Basic resources for families
- Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 page
- City of Chicago COVID-19 page
- The IL State Board of Education recommends that schools still provide meals for pick up during closures; check with your school district. Info on this for Chicago here (and more detail here). The Greater Chicago Food Depository has info on where to find food and meals and how to help others if you can.
How to Talk to Your Child About the Coronavirus Advice from a clinical psychologist (NY Times)
- Social Work Tools & Resources for Students Amid COVID-19 Break assembled by Chicago Public School special education teachers and social workers
- Hotline for Domestic Violence help in Illinois Crisis intervention and referrals to emergency housing and support services
Schooling in a time of coronavirus
Most schools in Illinois aren’t prepared to do e-learning. And e-learning will continue to present unresolved issues for children due to privacy and screen-time concerns. Here’s information and advice on that from national advocacy groups we work with:
- Parent Coalition for Student Privacy’s Advice to parents on maximizing privacy & minimizing screen time while your child’s school is closed
- Network for Public Education’s Online learning: What every parent should know
- Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: School is Closed. Now What? Low-screen, commercial-free options social distancing ideas.
Note that the IL State Board of Ed has said that schools cannot grade work assigned during March 17-March 30th unless it will improve a child’s academic standing (i.e. extra credit).
No matter what schools are able to roll out in terms of distance learning (digital or otherwise), keep things in perspective about what this time will be like. What children and families are going to experience in the coming months is unprecedented for most people. Many people are going to be dealing with concerns about shelter, food, safety and mental and physical health; those concerns will inevitably take precedence over worries about missing some months of academic instruction.
All that said, when all there is for children to do is stay home, keeping occupied is key; there are tons of free resources online for educational experiences and enrichment, including digital and non-digital activities, if you need ideas.
Here’s a few places to start:
- Library Resources for Distance Learning for elementary-aged children
- Play Ideas for When Kids Are Stuck at Home by Dr. Jenny Radesky
- Do School At Home - A Guide to Unplugged Learning at Home This guide from members of the CCFC Screens in Schools Work Group helps kids think of fun, educational activities if they're stuck inside.
- Virtual Museum Visits
- Chicago Public Fools’ blogger Julie Vassilatos normally writes about public schools advocacy, but this week she has suggestions for keeping adults and kids busy during social distancing
- Anti-oppressive, anti-racist homeschool curriculum ideas
- Giant list of ideas for being home with kids
- Math for Love Math lessons and activities that aren’t online with an emphasis on puzzles and games; can search by grade-level
- University of Maine ecology professor, Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, Twitter thread on science activities
- For older children: Franklin and Marshall College biology professor Dan Ardia's COVID-19 EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
- St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Video Performances
- SAG-AFTRA Storyline Famous/semi-famous actors reading storybooks
- Amazing Educational Resources - Crowdsourced list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings
Update 4:30pm Fri. 3/13: Thank you for advocating! Your voices were heard today. Gov. Pritzker announced all private and public schools will be closed beginning Tuesday March 17th through March 30th.
More advocating going to be needed in the months to come to make sure children and families and communities are getting what they need in very difficult times.Read more