By CHRISTY JANKOWSKI
Illinois Governor Pritzker officially announced on April 17th during a press conference, that schools would remain closed for in person learning for the rest of the school year. However, districts are still finding a way to connect with their students albeit challenging.
For Cerro Gordo Schools that means distribution of packets of work put together by each teacher and handed out safely in a line of cars with each distributor wearing a mask. The packets are picked up every two weeks. The other packets are delivered with lunches and breakfasts to students that ride the bus by Superintendent Brett Robinson and bus driver, Deb Taylor. In the Junior and Senior High, teachers have adapted to using Google Classroom and connecting with their students in a variety of ways.
One teacher, Dr. Vicky Gilpin, is addressing this in a variety of ways as she teaches not only Cerro Gordo High School students, but college students. She stated, “I am glad they made the decision now rather than later because then we can work to try to postpone rather than cancel major events. As someone who has learned and taught with official/planned online learning in other situations, remote learning is quite different in this crisis because not everyone has the same resources or motivation necessary, and it can be time consuming/exhausting for everyone involved, so we have to err on the side of compassion.” She went on to add, “I am just so proud of how teachers, parents, and students have stepped up and so grateful to be able to continue education even in this format.”
Many parents are concerned over the changes, but believe it is what is safe. Many are not taking risks with Covid-19. The ability to get tested in central Illinois is tough, as there are not enough tests to go around. However, there are multiple positives in Macon County and a few in Piatt County. The numbers grow daily, and as of May 1st each Illinois resident will be required to wear a mask of some kind in public where social distancing is not possible.
Nicole Suddarth, parent of students in the Mt. Zion school district stated she was in agreement that the decision was for the best, but concerned about mental health. “A lot of children, depending on the age and maturity level don’t fully understand the dangers of Covid-19 because so many people have told them it’s just like the flu, which it likely would be for them, but not for their parents and grandparents.” She went on to add, “I have seen several free mental health hotlines that are available and that is excellent.” Adding more, “My child’s school has done what they can for e-learning, but our public school system was not created to facilitate education this way. I’m sure there will be setbacks when the kids return to in class instruction and teachers will have to reconstruct lesson plans they’ve likely used for years to accommodate. But, we are all in this together. With the support of our friends and family, this will just be a chapter in our book.”
Cerro Gordo parents Kristina Pyles and Sara O’laughlin also made remarks. Pyles stated, “I know as a parent who is still working that homeschooling and work is very difficult.” Pyles works as a CNA on the frontlines and works typically 8-12 hour days, and then comes home to teach three children. “There is not enough time in the day for all of it. And the expectation for the kids e-learning is really hard. I have one online learning and two with paper packets. Neither one is easier than the other. I understand teachers are amazing for handling so many kids at once, but teaching is a full time job in itself, and now I am a mom, employee, and now a teacher. It is way too much for me to handle.” O’laughlin, parent of a preschool student, “ It’s probably for the best to keep our kids safe. However it is so sad that our kids don’t get the structure of ending their year and saying goodbye to their teachers and classmates, also it is very sad for the Seniors!”
Another teacher, Heather Champion, stated, “ I am so, so, sad. I miss my students and I am in a strange limbo of being their teacher, but not really being able to reach because I am not with them and this is hard. I am walking a thin line, I want to instruct them and help them continue to grow, but I am a parent too. I know what it is to work all day and then try to help multiple students of multiple ages learn. This is a challenge and an exhausting one at that.”
Superintendent Brett Robinson of Cerro Gordo Schools stated on Facebook after the announcement of the closure of in-school sessions for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year a lengthy post assuring the students, parents, and faculty via social media that the district will still continue to run. The food distribution program will continue, as will the remote learning plans which vary based on grade level. At the end of his post he stated, “I know this is not the school year that any of us imagined, but I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we have dealt with this unprecedented situation together. This period of Remote Learning offers us new ways to learn and grow, and out of this Pandemic, we will emerge stronger. Plans will be underway soon for the return to in-person learning next school year.”
“It’s important we continue to work together and support our students. I can’t thank you enough for all that you are doing as we all work together through this.”
The Cerro Gordo High School secretary, Kristin Robinson, is also asking Seniors to email a photo and their plans after High School by May 1. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
It is unclear as of now how graduations will go throughout the area, but with many things cancelled districts are looking for a way to do something positive showing recognition for their students.