By SAMANTHA PIDDE

As all Illinois public schools remain closed during April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers continue to practice remote learning techniques from home.

The West Carroll School Board formally approved the district's E-learning and remote learning plan at its March 31 meeting. The district used three days for remote planning for staff to prepare for the new learning format and to allow students and families to pick up materials, if needed. Students will receive either a pass or incomplete for grading purposes.

West Carroll Supt. Julie Katzenberger said that while teachers will mostly conduct remote learning days online, families with students in grades 3-12 without internet access have been able to pick up learning packets from the district at designated times.

Otherwise, all assignments are found on the district's website under teacher pages. All students in grades pre-kindergarten through second grade needed to pick up materials.

Katzenberger said the pick-up times were staggered over three days by grade level to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure. Chromebooks were available to some grade levels as well.

The first Remote Learning Day was Friday, April 3, and "West Carroll staff is doing a great job adapting to remote learning," Katzenberger said.

Jess Ervin of Savanna, mother of two West Carroll Primary School students, said in an email Friday, Aug. 10, that things are going well after a full week of E-learning.

“The kids really enjoyed seeing each other,” she said. Miss Yingling asked what they had been doing and told them if they have any questions about any of the E-learning assignments to email her and she will help them through anything.

“Aside from their Google classroom assignments, all teachers have made sure all students have their passwords for all learning websites that they use daily in the classroom and we are able to go to those websites, login and continue with the program while the teachers can track their continued progress. We get emails from teachers that suggest sites for all subjects, experiments, and outdoor activities.”

Added Ervin, “All teachers are quick to respond with any help and also have been keeping in touch to keep moral up! I am very happy with the way WC Primary is handling our transition to this new normal for our kids.

“Ms. Rein, the principal, has started recording the morning announcements and posting them on the WC Primary Facebook page daily. It helps the kids get in the school routine and assures them that the entire staff is thinking about them every day as they would if they were sitting in a classroom, walking the halls, in the cafeteria or on the playground.”

Gov. Pritzker's order also suspends state assessments for spring 2020, including the Constitution exam. This action also officially ended assessment activity statewide for the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, Illinois Science Assessment, SAT, and Dynamic Learning Maps-Alternate Assessment for the 2019-20 school year.

"Illinois recognizes that the free SAT provided by the state is the only opportunity many students get to take a college entrance exam,” said Katzenberger. “Illinois State Board of Education is working with the College Board on developing options to allow current 11th grade students to take the SAT in the fall.”

The county’s other two school districts are utilizing similar remote learning methods. In Chadwick-Milledgeville, kindergarten-fifth grade students are logging into Class Dojo and other learning sites to complete assignments. Older students are recording their attendance through the district's Teacherease website and utilizing a variety of learning platforms for instruction. Computers have been provided to K-5 students without home computers.

"Parents, we appreciate your support and encouragement of your students during Instructional Remote Learning Days," Milledgeville Supt. Tim Schurman said in an email to parents. "We also encourage parents to discuss your expectations with your children regarding the importance of doing the work."

Eastland School District also is utilizing similar E-learning plans.

"During this time, on-site learning will remain suspended but our schools' commitment to learning and education will remain open and learning will continue for all students - just through a different format," Supt. Alex Kasher posted on the district's Facebook page.

School districts also are providing free meals (breakfast and lunch) for students who need them. Katzenberger said that between March 17-30, 838 "Grab and Go" meals were served at sites in each of the three towns. From March 23-27, the district's transportation department delivered 1,186 meals.

"Staff are doing an amazing job preparing and delivering meals to students in the West Carroll schools," said Katzenberger. "We miss our students and hope that everyone is staying home and staying safe."

West Carroll continues to offer its "Grab and Go" meals at the WCPS, district office and the bus barn in Thomson between 8-9:30 a.m. Both breakfast and lunch can be picked up at those times. Families unable to make it to those locations can contact the district for delivery. Delivery is from 8 a.m.-noon Monday through Friday.

The Chadwick-Milledgeville district is conducting a sack lunch delivery program Monday through Friday. People may call 815-225-7141 each day by 9:30 a.m. to request lunches for their students. Lunches will include a sandwich, vegetable, fruit, and snack. There is no cost for these lunches, for students 18 and under, currently enrolled in the district and sack lunches will be delivered to homes by C.U.S.D #399 employees around noon each day.

Eastland is offering meals for every school day, but is only holding pick up of their grab-and-go meals twice a week. More than one meal will be distributed at a time. Meals can be picked up at either school building from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.