With recent concerns related to Coronavirus/COVID-19, school districts in Illinois have been encouraged by the Illinois State Board of Education to prepare for any potential school closings.
One encouragement from ISBE is for districts to “immediately begin developing an approved e-learning plan in preparation for a potential school closure.”
Last school year, Unit 5’s administration approached UFEA leadership about creating an e-learning plan that could be utilized on emergency days, such as snow days. We let them know we had concerns that would need to be addressed, but we’d be happy to look at any plan they developed to determine if it appropriately addressed those concerns.
The district decided not to pursue the idea and did not develop an e-learning plan for UFEA’s consideration.
OUR CURRENT SITUATION
This week, as a result of ISBE’s encouragement, Unit 5 administration again approached UFEA leadership regarding e-learning. We indicated we had the same concerns, and we delivered the same response — that we would not develop the plan for the district, but we would be happy to consider any plan the district developed to determine if it appropriately addressed our concerns.
Our concerns relating to e-learning include the fact that we recognize there is no way to truly replicate the school or classroom experience, and no way to replace the value of what our educators do on a daily basis with our students at school. Additionally:
- How will the district notify parents, students and staff about e-learning days, and how much notice will be provided?
- How much time will be needed for educators to develop appropriate activities — both e-learning activities and alternative activities for students who don’t have adequate access for online options? When will that time be made available?
- What would the expectations be for educators during e-learning days?
- How will we make sure we provide appropriate and adequate supports to students of all needs and abilities?
- How will we address students who don’t participate in e-learning days?
- What will we do to support students who may not have parents or adults at home during e-learning days to supervise and support them?
- How will we address the technology needs of students and parents related to hardware, software and internet access?
- How will we address our UFSPA colleagues and other hourly employees to guarantee they won’t lose income as a result of utilizing e-learning days?
We continue to encourage the district to develop an e-learning plan that takes into consideration our concerns, and the concerns and needs of parents, students, the community, and other staff in our schools. It’s important to note e-learning, when it was introduced in Illinois last year, was intended to be an option available to districts for singular and short-term non-attendance days related to weather and similar emergencies. E-learning was not originally intended to address any long-term school closures. The potential of using e-learning in response to any long-term school closure makes it even more important that our concerns outlined above are addressed by any plan the district develops.
In fact, this week, we are working with the District to provide input into the plan they develop, and we are working with them to negotiate a Letter of Understanding that will attempt to address the impact on our members.
As we work on this issue moving forward, we want the input of members. A survey was sent out this week to gather member feedback, questions, suggestions and concerns. If you have not yet participated in that survey, you can do so here: UFEA e-learning survey. And, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your building rep or UFEA leadership.