GENEVA – As Geneva District 304 students are at home, as per Gov. Pritzker’s order to close all public schools to curb the spread of COVID-19, Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Teaching Andrew Barrett said the district is trying to help children maintain some sense of normalcy.
Speaking at a special school board meeting Sunday, Barrett said teachers are working on remote learning opportunities for their students.
“It’s important for students to be connected to their teachers during this challenging time,” Barrett said. “Children who are used to a routine – this can create some anxiety. We also know that one of the main reasons we are here is to help build those brain muscles and keep kids intellectually engaged.”
But Barrett said the efforts for remote learning are not the same as when children are in school.
“That which is most meaningful that happens in school cannot be replicated in a remote learning opportunity,” Barrett said. “The things that make our schools as powerful engines of learning as they are, cannot be replicated.”
Teachers will have an institute day on Monday, as they work on finding ways to reinforce learning and content for students who are at home, Barrett said.
Students are already getting educational information on math and reading activities as teachers are sharing resources with each other.
Technology staff are working to be able to give parents things for their at-home students to work on via remote learning.
For first grade and second grade students, for example, they would send a PowerPoint presentation to parents on math activities that can be done with a deck of cards in the house or a reading activity with any book in the house, Barrett said.
Barrett said responding to COVID-19 is a new experience for everyone.
“In this moment, all any one of us can do is our best,” Barrett said. “None of us has ever experienced this. None of us in this room, no one in our community – it’s changing by the minute and all we can do is our best at that very moment.”
In order to make this a success for adults and students, Barrett said, “is if we can all give each other a little bit of grace. Because we need to be able recognize that there’s going to be some bumps in the road.”
As the schools will be closed for two weeks as per the governor’s orders, the district will go straight from there to its spring break, so students will be off for three weeks straight, Superintendent Kent Mutchler said.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education website, www.isbe.net, because the schools are closed as per the governor’s executive orders, the days off will be considered “Act of God Days” and do not need to be made up at the end of the school year.
That means district do not have to use their emergency days – such as for extreme weather – which must be made up.
E-learning will not count as instructional days, according to the website, but all districts have full autonomy to provide continuous learning opportunities however they can.
District 304 created a task force to take proactive measures so officials can respond quickly as the situation evolves. Mutchler said he would continue talking with the task force and with other superintendents.
“This is going to be an ongoing thing,” Mutchler said. “This is a great example of collaboration and our staff caring about our students and each other.”
Board member Alicia Saxton said she felt good telling parents how the district is working to respond to the coronavirus situation.
“We are a beacon of hope for our parents and kids,” Saxton said.