Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – March 15th – March 20th, 2020

School Closures: 

Chicago Public Schools extends closure until mid-April, cancels standardized testing

By Nader Issa and Fran Spielman for the Sun-Times

“Chicago’s more than 640 public schools are staying closed until at least mid-April because of coronavirus worries, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday. The extension of school closures that were already keeping the city’s 350,000 students home until March 31 further jeopardizes the remainder of an already-marred school year. The school district, the nation’s third largest, won’t be back in session before April 21, Lightfoot announced in a televised speech Thursday evening that outlined the city’s continued response to the increasingly dangerous pandemic. “We need to give parents and guardians plenty of advance notice about this reality and the ability to plan,” Lightfoot said.”

Every public and private school in Illinois is closed because of the coronavirus. Here’s what you need to know.

By Hannah Leone for the Chicago Tribune 

“Efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus mean every public and private school in Illinois is closing Tuesday, if it hasn’t already. How long will schools be closed? Chicago Public Schools will remain closed through April 20, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order closes all kindergarten through 12th grade schools — public and private — “for educational purposes” from March 17 through March 30, with students returning to classes March 31. Some individual districts, and some other states, have chosen to keep schools closed longer than that. It’s possible that the Illinois statewide shutdown could be extended. State officials have said that future decisions about statewide closures will be made “in consultation with public health officials.””

Food & Meals Distribution: 

On first day of food distribution amid coronavirus closures, Chicago schools served 28,000 meals

By Cassie Walker Burke for Chalkbeat

“Despite a steady drizzle of late-morning rain, the families still appeared Wednesday at Federico Garcia Lorca Elementary in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood to pick up bags containing meals. The bags were stuffed with cereal, sandwiches, granola bars — and families got three days’ worth. The day before had brought chicken patties that families could heat up later and sunbutter and jelly sandwiches. That day — the first of Illinois’ mandated schools closure, currently scheduled to extend through March 30 — the demand was so high that, when supply started to dwindle, Lorca’s principal went into the cafeteria, put on gloves, and began assembling sandwiches.  Fewer families picked up food on Wednesday than on Tuesday when two administrators, six lunchroom workers, and two school security personnel had handed out 961 meals, said Claudia Guerrero, the assistant principal. With each student receiving three days’ worth of bags with breakfast and lunch, that worked out to a few hundred children in need of food.”

What you need to know about getting food from Chicago Public Schools during coronavirus closures

Where, when and how you can pick up food for your kids, plus other questions answered.

By Nader Issa for the Sun-Times

“When Illinois schools close Tuesday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, families across the state will still be able to pick up free food for their kids. At Chicago Public Schools, which annually serves 40 million lunches and 20 million breakfasts, any family can get food for each student for as long as schools are closed, no questions asked. Here’s where, when and how you can pick up food for your kids, plus other questions answered.”

Family Support: 

Schools FAQ: Can My Children Invite Friends Over?

By Susie An, Sarah Karp, Adriana Cardona-Maguigad, Kate McGee, Kate Grossman for WBEZ

“All public and private elementary and high schools in Illinois are closed at least through March 30 under an order from Gov. JB Pritzker. We’ll be monitoring this developing story for news that applies to families with children in school — in the Chicagoland area, primarily — so check back for updates. Parents (and students), here are answers to your pressing questions, researched and reported by WBEZ’s education team: Can my children invite friends over? This is strongly discouraged. The head of the Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday, March 18, urged children to avoid in-person play dates and hangouts. “If you’re a kid … don’t undermine the school closures by now creating play dates with a bunch of your friends that you would have been at school [with],” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “That just negates the benefit of the school closure. If you’re a tween, the same thing. Don’t call everyone over and socialize. We’ve got to limit our exposure at all levels, at every age.”

Tips from Chicago teachers for parents thrust into home schooling by coronavirus

By Mitch Dudek for the Sun-Times

“Panicked parents conscripted by coronavirus into the ranks of home-school teachers have been streaming into Belinda Carucci’s teacher supply store in Bucktown and asking her and her staff for advice. Anxieties for many parents were heightened because, unlike many suburban school districts, Chicago Public Schools has not offered standard e-learning curriculum after the decision to shut down schools this week because not all students have internet access at home, Carucci said. Chicago Public Schools has made enrichment activities available online and is offering the material at food pickup sites at schools throughout the city. But there’s a fear school closures, which began Tuesday, might last well beyond March 31. “Parents, especially of younger kids, want to know how to make lessons last longer than 20 minutes,” said Carucci, who runs Chicago Teachers Inc. “Our bestsellers have been workbooks, we have a whole curriculum of home-school workbooks, and arts and crafts supplies.” Carucci said of her customers Wednesday — day two of schools being closed: “They’re going crazy trying to maintain order.” With this in mind, the Sun-Times asked professional educators for guidance on how to handle home schooling. “Create a routine,” said Ellen Metz, head of schools for Noble Network of Charter Schools. “And ‘routine’ is a better word than ‘schedule’ because schedules seem rigid, like you might feel like a failure if you don’t follow them. Routines are more forgiving.” Writing letters to friends and family has helped create connectivity and given Metz, who has young kids of her own, a reason to explain what a stamp is and how writing an address on an envelope works.”

Family & Teacher Experiences: 

Here’s a Virtual Hug for All You Instant Homeschoolers

By ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson for Chicago Unheard

“Dear parents of school age children:  Please don’t be so hard on yourself if “e-learning” at home is hard for you. Teaching is a profession, where folks go to school, shadow other teachers, and get continued trainings each year. Teachers are educated professionals who spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, sweat, blood, and tears, crafting their art.  We, parents, can’t expect to be as competent as a teacher, in two days, while also preparing for a national pandemic. Give yourself a hug. Give yourself a break. Seriously, drop your expectations of what you can teach your child during this break. Teaching is hard. Good teaching is hard and takes practice. Great teachers are angels from God, in addition to the other things.  Basically, give yourself a break. I’m sending you a virtual hug. We are all figuring this out.

Learning Differently From Home: One Mother’s Story

By Maureen Kelleher for Chicago Unheard

“Leo watching his teacherDiana Chacon, of Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood, is the mom of 6-year-old Leo, an active, curious boy who happens to have ADHD. I spoke with her yesterday about how she and Leo are learning and managing from home. Being home all day is tough, especially for a child as sociable and physically active as Leo. “He misses his friends. He misses the sensory room [at school] a lot. He spends a lot of time there,” when school is open, Chacon said. Because Leo already has attention issues, Chacon is vigilant about not giving him too much screen time. She’s also not giving him medication to help him focus right now, since he’s not in school and the medicine sometimes makes him feel nauseous. But Chacon, whose regular job is substitute teaching, has a lot of time to give and a lot of strategies to keep Leo occupied.”I have a lot of things I use for him–sensory tools. I can kind of tell when he needs to move his body. We have a big backyard and we can go out there.” For indoors, she also has a trampoline. She feels confident she can keep him learning, too. “I have a background in teaching, I don’t feel like he’s going to miss out a lot educationally.”

Tales from the Front Lines of Teaching Remotely: Lara Elementary

By Patty Hernandez for Chicago Unheard

“I communicate with parents using the Remind app and stay in touch with students using Google Classroom. While it’s nice to see parents are creating schedules and structures to help support their kids study or learn at home, consistency is the key. Only time will tell if the schedules are sustainable. Also, for some of the families I work with, there is little quiet space for them to work at home. I know one of my students lamented, “Oh, great. This means we are going to have to watch my cousins now and I’m not going to be able to get any work done.” Our school provides students with licenses to online supplemental programs: Reading Plus for comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary, and Freckle for math.  These are wonderful because they are adaptive and teachers can monitor the students’ progress from their dashboard, but I still have a handful of students who have not accessed their account from home since the beginning of the year. Besides assigning lessons on these programs, I assigned informational reading assignments from a Scholastic magazine called Scope and a good ol’ novel to read. The science teacher assigned readings from Science World magazine and the math teacher put together a packet of worksheets to review skills. BrainPOP is offering free subscriptions for the time being. We got an account for our students to use for free. We are also asking our students to watch CNN10 daily, just as we do in class every day.”

How This Teacher Is Handling The COVID-19 School Closures

By Sara Urben for Chicago Unheard

“Because Illinois’ COVID-19 school closures will run right up until my two-week Spring Break in April, I, like many of you, am about to embark on a month-long separation from school period due to coronavirus concerns.  Whatever your feelings are about the virus or the decisions to temporarily close schools, this will be the reality for many teachers in the coming month. Let’s first acknowledge the positive. The present situation has made me feel incredibly grateful to be a teacher.  I am a salaried employee, with health insurance, who is able to work from home during this challenging time in order to protect my own health and the health of others. I am choosing to self-quarantine as much as humanly possible. While I am not showing symptoms nor am I especially concerned about contracting the virus myself, doing so seems like the very least I can do to protect the greater community, especially considering my privileged circumstances.”