School districts prepare for e-learning

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Remote learning is on the way for school districts around the state, and for some it is already here. But what happens when a student does not have a computer or cannot connect to class?

Administrators at Decatur Public Schools have described the past month as “building the plane as you’re flying it.” They are talking about the frenzy of developing a remote learning plan for students during the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of school districts have decided to lend families without home computers their laptops and iPads. For those who may not even be able to connect, Decatur Schools printed out learning packets too.

“We mailed some if they couldn’t come in,” says Decatur Superintendent Paul Fregeau. “We called and got them in the mail to them. Through any means possible we’ve tried to keep those kids engaged, regardless of their access to internet or a device.”

Urbana Schools were still distributing Chromebooks this week. They gave out close to 800 laptops, but some multi-student families will have to share between kids. The district does have a plan to help that in the future.

“Right now, we are doing one per family just to make sure we have enough to provide for each family that may be in need,” says Chief Information Officer M.C. Neal. “We will be moving forward with the second phase and at that point we will be reaching out to families who have four or five students in the district and working with them to get them an additional device as well.”

Many colleges have already decided students grades cannot drop during remote learning. Decatur Schools is going to follow that rule as well. They say they still discussing with teachers how to best keep track of attendance, but they already have some ways to keep students’ attention while they are at home.

“The state has given us some guidance right now to count kids there, but we still want to get them engaged,” says Fregeau. “Whether it’s phone calls, emails, other means, we want to get them engaged.”

E-learning will officially start for them next Monday. In Champaign, their schools started remote learning Tuesday and Urbana Schools started April 6.

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