coronavirus illinois

What Parents Want Most as They Brace for Remote Learning in the Fall

Already a number of major school districts in Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools, have announced plans to kick off the school year remotely. But with many still finalizing what exactly that will look like, parents fear flashbacks of the spring

For many families, there's hope that history won't repeat itself and the remote learning problems faced during the start of the coronavirus pandemic will ease as schools return, many virtually, in the fall.

Already a number of major school districts in Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools, have announced plans to kick off the school year remotely. But with many still finalizing what exactly that will look like, parents fear flashbacks of the spring.

"The remote learning this spring was challenging," said Lilia Guevara, a member of the parent advisory committee at Evergreen Academy in Chicago. "It was stressful."

Coronavirus Pandemic

Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you

California Man Who Mocked COVID-19 Vaccine Dies of Virus

States Scale Back Virus Reporting Just as Cases Surge

Guevara, a single mom with eighth-grade twins in Chicago Public Schools, said one of the biggest changes she hopes to be made is more personal interaction between teachers and students.

"They learn a lot one-on-one," Guevara said. "For diverse learners, even only 15 minutes with the teacher one-on-one, that would make a big difference."

More teacher interaction has been a consistent request from parents across districts, according to Natalie Neris, chief of community engagement for First Kids Chicago, a nonprofit group recommending solutions for schools.

"One of the things parents emphasized across all of our focus groups was the preference for teacher-led instruction," Neris said. "What parents are asking for is consistency. They're asking to understand prior to entering the next year what the protocols are going to be, how to expect to receive communication."

Neris has two children of her own in Chicago Public Schools, but she's also a former teacher who struggled with remote learning in the spring.

"It was hard," she said. "I have two teenagers at home, you know. It was really, really challenging and I'm a seasoned educator for 18 years."

Chicago Public Schools said it is working on a plan to address concerns from both parents and teachers as the start of the school year approaches.

Among the new requirements is one that "every K-12 teacher and student will be engaged for the entirety of the school day, with students receiving real-time instruction every day."

"Every K-12 student and teacher will be engaged for the entirety of a typical school day, with live instruction every school day," the district said in a release. "Pre-k students will also receive live instruction, but given the unique needs of our youngest learners, more time and focus will be spent on small group interaction and parental support."

Clear expectations on measuring student growth is another recommendation from parents, along with more resources, Neris said.

"Parents whose children had the best experience with remote learning were parents who were able to access resources from the school," she said. "Resources for science projects, for example, resources for art projects."

According to CPS, schools will use Google education tools to allow the district to track work - with teachers and students expected to log on daily for a check-in and for live video instruction.

CPS will also be transitioning back to its previous grading system giving students letter grades for their work, the district said. When schools moved to fully remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic in March, the district employed a policy that would prevent students from being penalized under the new format, given the extenuating circumstance.

But the grading system will return in the fall to align with state guidance and to help foster an environment that will "more closely align with a typical school year," CPS said.

And it's not just engagement with teachers the students need. There's also a desire for more student-to-student interaction.

"My kids were looking forward to actually talk to the other students," Guevara said. "'Hey, how are you doing?' They were really craving for that."

CPS said additional guidance is forthcoming and more detailed plans will be released in the "coming days."

Contact Us