In late July, the Illinois State Board of Education recommended that all school districts provide a fully remote learning option to families who are reluctant to send their children into school classrooms with the novel coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of weakening throughout the nation.
While Illinois has done better than most in keeping COVID-19 positivity rates low, recent weeks have demonstrated that the state by no means has its arms around this thing. Positivity rates are ticking up statewide and more new cases have popped up locally in the past two weeks than had surfaced in the prior month.
And with reports from elsewhere in the nation that students and faculty have contracted COVID-19 after their schools opened their doors in recent weeks, we just don't see how we're going to avoid a repeat of last spring, when the governor ordered schools to close and for all instruction to be delivered remotely.
School districts locally have prepared for this eventuality in different ways, though some districts already have made the call to begin instruction remotely and see how things go before reopening their doors. For most districts providing both a hybrid in-person model and a fully remote option, those districts' teachers are providing all instruction.
Riverside-Brookfield High School has chosen a different strategy. Any family choosing the fully remote option for their children will have that education provided by a third-party company called Apex Learning, which the school district has used in the past for its credit recovery program.
If you choose that option – and families have until Aug. 5 to make that decision – you're stuck with it for a full semester. Our understanding is that even if the school is forced to close its doors to in-person classes in mid-September, those who chose Apex must finish out the semester with the firm, while their classmates who chose the hybrid option get fully remote instruction from the school district's teachers.
This seems not ideal.
We have no idea what kind of personal instruction, or how much of it, Apex Learning is capable of providing. We think it's safe to say that when families bought their homes or chose to lease apartments within District 208's boundaries, one of the biggest considerations for doing so was to send their kids to RBHS.
The line item for District 208 on homeowners' tax bills reminds them twice a year how much they wanted that for their children.
If the school district feels its teachers are fully capable of delivering remote instruction should the school have to close its doors, we're not quite sure why those who wanted to be remote from the jump couldn't be accommodated.
Apex Learning is not what local families signed up for when they moved here and we have a feeling this is not going to go down well in the end.
How are colleges supposed to judge this instruction versus that taught by the school's own teachers? Are classes equivalent in terms of material and rigor? Of what value will the grades for classes be, comparatively speaking?
We guess we're going to find out.