School kids in Illinois won’t have to take state-mandated standardized tests this spring. With school buildings closed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order last week waiving provisions of state law that mandate that standardized tests be given to public school students every year to assess their progress.
Area superintendents applauded the decision.
“I think it makes sense in this current time with the pandemic,” said Martha Ryan-Toye, the superintendent of Riverside Elementary School District 96. “I think there were problems just even in how to administer it.”
Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski, never a fan of the mandated tests, also applauded the governor’s decision.
“I certainly think that it makes sense not to add another stressor to kid’s plates,” Kuzniewski said.
High school juniors will no longer have to take the SAT exam this year, which has been a state requirement.
Most area school districts are now in their second week of remote learning and superintendents seem pleased with how it has been going.
“We’ve gotten some very positive feedback from our parent community,” Ryan-Toye said. “I’m very proud of our teachers and really our whole team.”
After teachers in District 95 scrambled to set up a remote learning plan before schools shut down two weeks ago, Kuzniewski is pleased with how the first week went and with the development of plans going forward.
“I would say, given the circumstances, it’s going exceptionally well in District 95,” Kuzniewski said. “Our staff has done an incredible job of shifting gears and reworking what education looks like for kids.”
Superintendents don’t know when, or if, students will again be able to attend school in person. That is now up to the governor. Most area schools are scheduled to reopen on April 7, but it looks like that won’t happen.
“I don’t believe we will back in school this year,” Kuzniewski said.
District 95 is developing plans to deliver remote learning for the rest of this school year if that turns out to be necessary.
As of now, schools are still expected to deliver 176 total days of instruction. Remote learning days will count toward that total.
District 95 sent out a survey to parents to determine the level of internet access in the district as it prepares for extended remote learning. Kuzniewski said the district is encouraging families without internet access to take advantage offers of free access made by Comcast and AT&T during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike District 96, where every third- through eighth-grader has a school-issued Chromebook, District 95 students do not have school-issued computers. But the district is making plans to get more devices into students’ hands if the schools remain shut down for a lengthy period. On March 17, District 95 ordered 250 Chromebooks, which should arrive around the end of April.
“Devices are a challenge,” Kuzniewski said.
But Kuzniewski said the bigger challenge is ensuring internet access for the few District 95 families that don’t have it at home. District 95 officials are investigating the possibility of providing remote hotspots to families without internet access at home.
Lyons School District 103, which is on spring break this week, is planning to distribute Chromebooks to families next week, Superintendent Kristopher Rivera said. While there won’t be enough for every student, Rivera said he hopes to distribute one Chromebook to every District 103 family.
Next week, District 96 plans to distribute iPads to first- and second-graders. This week some District 96 teachers began using the Zoom video conference app to teach their classes, allowing for real-time interactions between students and teachers.
District 96 has switched from daily to twice-weekly lunch distribution to families. School districts are still required to provide lunches to students who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program.
Double lunches will be available on Mondays and Wednesdays for pick up at Door 5 at L.J. Hauser Junior High School. Even families that don’t qualify for the free or reduced lunch program can pick up a free lunch at Hauser. Families requesting lunches are asked to fill out an online form for each child that needs or wants a lunch.
Finally, responding to a request from Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel, all playgrounds and play areas at District 96 schools have been closed and are cordoned off with yellow caution tape in an attempt to prevent kids from congregating.