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Serving: IL

Back to school — or not?

Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images two children boarding stopped school bus
SEEN THIS LATELY? Your children’s pandemic school experience is as random and arbitrary as the school district they happen to live in.
Rural schools are struggling to meet needs, and every one of them is approaching the pandemic in different ways. What’s it mean for your kids?

As I write this, we’re nearly a year into the global coronavirus pandemic. Remember where you were last March when you first heard school was canceled for two weeks? I do; we were shopping for a prom dress that’s yet to be worn.

Mostly, I remember the novelty of it all. We’d never been out of school for two whole weeks. Ever. My teenagers thought it was a kick. Their dad wished he could have that time in April. Hey farm dads, be careful what you wish for.

Our rural school did remote-learning light through the end of that school year. We came back in August with a hybrid model: choose to be in school 8 a.m. to noon or choose all remote. Throughout the fall, in-person classes would last a couple weeks, and then an outbreak would shut things down for a couple weeks. That pattern continued until mid-November, when we went full remote through Christmas. But nearly 40% of our junior high and high school students were getting D’s or F’s. Our school board said enough, and everyone came back 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., in person, starting in January.

What we’ve learned in the past year is that when the governor in Illinois left it up to each school district to respond, it created tremendous autonomy along with a tremendous patchwork of decisions. You can probably look around at your neighboring schools and describe a half-dozen different learning plans. We’re all doing something different, and some schools have never re-opened for in-person learning. Folks in Chicago are waging a tremendous battle over re-opening Chicago Public Schools.

Sure, this is a little heavier than what we usually cover in this column, but I’d like to know more about what you’re seeing. How is your rural school system approaching learning? How are your students faring? What’s been their biggest challenge, and what’s helped?

Shoot me an email. I’d love to learn more.


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