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Daily Journal
     March 17, 2020      #12-77 KDJ

Herscher school officials: flexibility is key to

By Stephanie Markham

HERSCHER — How does a school district with a largely rural-based student population develop an E-Learning plan? For Herscher Community Unit School District No.2, it has not been as difficult as school officials anticipated; it just requires some flexibility.

With Illinois mandating the closure of schools from Tuesday until March 30, districts across the state are preparing to instruct students using E-Learning, which involves instructing students via electronic media and typically over the internet.

Superintendent Rich Decman said administrators and teachers had been discussing the possibility of needing to develop an E-Learning plan for the past two weeks, and they used a school improvement day Monday to finalize those plans.

“We’re trying to continue learning opportunities for students in some way, shape or form, and so we’ve worked feverishly hard on trying to establish some type of system where we could keep the continual of education going,” he said.

Decman said school officials expected up to 20 to 30 percent of students may not have internet access, but a survey conducted in preparation for E-Learning indicated almost 100 percent of families do have internet access.

However, other problems were indicated in the survey, such as slow internet connectivity and lacking electronic devices to complete assignments.

Decman several students have been given electronic devices to take home for E-Learning, and the students who don’t have reliable internet at home were given hard copies of lessons and will be able to communicate with teachers via phone.

“[Teachers] may not necessarily do it online, but they can have regular contact with kids,” he said. “It’ll just be a different form of E-Learning.”

Teachers across the district will be using different platforms to reach parents and students, whether it is through email or software such as Google Classroom or ClassDojo, he said.

“All we’re doing for our teachers is requiring that they do reach parents and try to give kids some type of lesson or some type of learning activity that they can do during this time,” Decman said.

Teachers are asked to contact students daily and be available for students to reach them from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on E-Learning days, but they won’t have to give a certain number of assignments or lessons.

“We’re not taking grades or anything like that,” Decman said. “It’s more enrichment based per the guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education.”

E-Learning will take place over the next four school days until the district’s scheduled spring break and on the Monday after spring break. Extending E-Learning past March 30 will depend on what the state determines for school closures at that time, Decman said.

Decman said the most important things to emphasize to the community at this time are to be flexible and empathetic, as the situation with coronavirus is constantly changing and everyone’s situation is different.

“If we work together, we think we can keep on making positive things happen in our district,” he said.

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